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

A Tale of Torn Knee Menisci – Welcome to 2018

The blast of snow that we enjoyed so much in BC after Xmas was enough to make conditions pretty decent at Mission Ridge by New Year. It wasn’t stellar skiing, mostly groomers with the odd Lemolo and the like excursion. But it was skiing and fun. And the New Year parties were fine.

Conditions got no better in the next week in this so far weird winter. So we skipped the weekend and just went cruising Snoqualmie East on Sunday. Heavy snow was falling, but the ground below was as solid as Trump’s base. We lapped various groomers in the sparse crowds and were having enough fun to go to lunchtime. But about 11am I got off the old double chair on the back of East, and the super low get off made my left knee feel kinda weird, with some strange feeling in the middle that even my battered knees hadn’t felt before.

About 20 turns later a tiny inoffensive hop around a bump in the trail caused my left knee to buckle. I managed to ski down, meet Jan, and head up the lift for a painful cat track to the bottom. It was obvious something bad had happened. Next stop, my local Emergency Department at Cherry Hill hospital – my second visit in 2 years. Literally 4 blocks from home, it’s sure convenient. I left on crutches and drowned my sorrows on wine and one of the best burgers in Seattle at Red Cow in Madrona. Hopping around on crutches was no fun – made a roadie almost impossible.

It was pretty obvious I wouldn’t be skiing for a while.

Three doctors visits later an MRI has revealed tears in both my lateral and medial meniscus. I have a funny feeling that most of the damage for both tears had been done a while ago, and that low lift ramp just tipped things over the edge. A cortisone shot didn’t seem to have much effect, but at least by midweek I was walking again unaided. It was about all I could do really.

The next two weeks were just a lot of walking, weights in the gym for upper body, and hanging out in hotels while my buddies skied at weekends.  I was a bit like Homer Simpson without beer and doughnuts. I guess at least I still had beer.

The following weekend I managed a few slow groomers at Silver Mountain in some nice soft conditions, but things obviously weren’t right. I probably shouldn’t have been skiing. In fact, I definitely shouldn’t have. But I don’t think I did any more damage. Luckily.

More weekends in Wenatchee followed. I skied a few gentle Mission runs the first weekend and a few more both days the following weekend. Things were improving, but there was still a long way to go. If there was any consolation, conditions were pretty average. At least I wasn’t missing mega storms and deep pow.

After 4 weeks I finally felt confident to get back on my bike, both to work and in the gym, and do sessions on an elliptical. I kept the resistance and gears low, and while it wasn’t exactly 100% pain-free, I didn’t feel like disaster was lurking on every pedal stroke. The following weekend we had a Desert Ski Club trip to 49 Degrees North. The mountain was mostly frozen solid, but I went up and skied half a day Saturday afternoon and a little more Sunday. I wasn’t the only one who stuck to groomers. Conditions off groomed were glacial.

And this last weekend, we hit Schweitzer with a bunch of Aussies. Conditions were pretty fabulous really. Lots of fresh snow, cold, some fierce winds and finally sunshine with great windblown pow all over the mountain. The quality of snow tempted me off piste probably more than I should have, and Monday I skied something approximating a full ski day. My knee was a tad throbby in the car on the way home, but ice, vitamin I and 24 hours seemed to do the job. It felt fine on my bike Tuesday.

So things are looking up. The target is 10 days from now when we hopefully wake up in Lech for the first day of a 9-day ski vacation. I think I’ll be skiing just groomers this weekend at Mission, even if the snow comes down as forecast. Thinking of a trip to the wonderful Arlberg should be enough to keep me safely on the corduroy.

Mission Ridge: 6200m 5200m vert

Snoqualmie East: 3000m vert

Silver Mountain: 2800m vert

Mission Ridge: 1200m, 2300m, 2400m vert

49 Degrees North: 4200m, 4600m vert

Schweitzer: 5400m, 5800m, 6500m vert

Season Totals:

29 days, 193,400m vert, 7 powder days

Advertisements

Kimberley PowFest

Leaving a very snowy Revelstoke about 2pm is always a painful experience. A 6-hour snowy drive over Rogers Pass and down a snowswept Columbia Valley to Kimberley wasn’t much fun either. The 20cm of pow in the village and hearty food at the wonderful Pedal and Tap alleviated most of the suffering though. The beer did the job on the rest.

The next two days were simply great skiing, as you can tell from these photos. Each day delivered 25cm+ of primo -15C Kootenay pow.

The recipe was the same both days. About a 5-minute line to get up the frontside quad at 9am. Rip down to the Easter triple, pick up a fast lap on the superb open trees of Fuzzy or get first tracks in Dean’s Glades, and then back up the triple and a traverse into the Black Forest area, where you just pick any deserted, deep untracked line you fancy down to the Tamarack chair.

From there, get 3 or 4 laps on the fun, ungroomed runs before the line at Tamarack gets long. Then grab a couple of laps off the frontside in the fabulous steep trees of White Pine and Robinson’s Ridge.

At approximately 11.15am, grab lunch in the cafe. Careful of the poutine. It’s huge. And tasty.

Back on the quad before noon, and straight to the Easter chair. Indulge in multiple laps with no lift lines. There’s still pow everywhere – the great advantage of slow chairs and expansive ski areas. Then throw in some big laps to the Tamarack chair, using the singles line to get back up the Easter chair when the lunchtime hordes reappear.

Wash, rinse, repeat until backside lifts close. Finish with a couple of frontside laps dipping into the 3.30pm untracked pow in White Pine. 4pm-ish – beer.

Kimberley doesn’t get prodigious snowfall, have modern lifts and super steeps. But if you time it right, in a storm or with a solid base, the lack of crowds, superb and extensive trees and bumps, and many fun fast rolling groomers make for a simple great place to ski. It’s a place a could explore for a long time.

7600m, 7800m vert

17 days, 143,800m vert, 4 powder days

 

 

 

Post-Xmas at Revelstoke

It’s been too long since we were in Revelstoke. Far too long really. While there have been no appreciable changes on the mountain except maybe a few more empty fancy bars and shops, the town is certainly evolving. New places to eat and drink. All very welcome, adding some more options to what still remains a genuine highway and railway town.

But the plunging runs on Mt MacKenzie are the true draw in Revelstoke. On our first day, the terrain off the Stoke chair and the gentler runs off the Ripper were skiing fine. It hadn’t snowed for several days, giving chalky and firm-ish conditions, and the emerging twigs and rocks on steeper pitches betrayed the need for more snow.

Typical for Revie, the next two days delivered. Big time.  A solid 50cm gradually transformed conditions from decent to superb, as you can hopefully see in the pics here. Areas like Clyde’s Secret Glades and Vertigo were wide open, and with so many lines and so few people, it was freshies all day long. The trees on the skiers left of the Ripper were a true playground. Steep drops, half-pipe like creek beds, open cruising glades buried in deep pow – they had it all.

By the time we left, there was almost enough snow to ski the wonderful fall line runs like Pitch Black all the way to lodge. When this mid-mountain area is open, Revie is a true gem. Steeps, trees, bumps, groomers – a vert monster with fast lifts and no lines. It really does have it all.

10,200m, 10,900m, 8900m vert

15 days, 128,400m vert, 2 powder days

Getting Value-for-Money from Edge Cards @ Whistler

It’s been an odd start to the ski season in the Pacific Northwest. Odd, but sufficiently snowy, which is a lot better than the Rockies!

A huge pre-Thanksgiving dump set up our annual Whistler trip beautifully. Then, express pineapples from Hawaii arrived, ensuring we arrived at a somewhat sodden village for Thanksgiving weekend. Luckily the rain stayed away until Sunday, and the groomer skiing was pretty darn fine and extensive. Even in the rain on Sunday, the skiing was excellent. Just soggy. We bailed early.

Returning two weeks later, another storm cycle had considerably improved conditions. Outer Limits was boney but very skiable, and on Saturday we had lots of fun off the newly opened Peak chair. There were still surprises though, like the mandatory skis off creek crossing on Jersey Cream on the exit from Overbite. We followed a patroller’s example. 🙂

Finally, we sneaked another two days just before the Xmas madness started. This time it felt like winter. The conditions were excellent top to bottom. It was cold and crisp. Virtually the whole mountain was open and it was deserted.

Pics here show how the conditions changed over the month. And thanks to the Edge card deal we have, seven of these nine days were free. Thanks Vail! We’ll be back to use our remaining 3 days of the 5 day Edge card in February.

As we rolled out on the Friday afternoon after a fabulous day, the stream of vehicles heading up the mountain foretold the madness of the arriving Xmas hordes. It was going to be a crazy busy one.

ThxGiving 8100m, 8800m, 8800m, 4200m

December 8-10th 9500m, 10,300m, 9100m

Stevens Pass 4800m

December 21-22 9900m, 10,900m

Season Totals: 12 days 98,400m vert

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

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