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

Category Archives: skiing

End of 2017-18 Season Summary

Since my last post, life kinda got on top of me. Crazy workload, trips to Europe, trips to Boston. There was time for work and skiing, and not much else. Hence here’s a brief wrap up of April and May skiing, more for posterity than anything else.

First stop was Whistler in early April. Great skiing, light crowds, hanging out with our  ski instructor friend Jess. It was funsies indeed, and a great way to belatedly hit 50 days for the season.

Friday 10,300m, Sat 11,300m, Sun 8300m vert

Saturday work meant we could only make the closing Sunday at Mission Ridge. It was the usual – great base, low crowds, Spring weather. Shame they closed.

Sunday 8000m vert

Work travel delayed the next trip until early May and a week riding Blackcomb. Despite the slightly limited terrain due to the new gondola construction to replace the Wizard and Solar Coaster chairs, there was some magnificent skiing. I love Spring at Blackcomb. Some GoPro footage of this week might emerge sometime if I buy a new laptop that can edit 60fps footage!

Sunday onwards: 6800m, 9400m, 11,000m, 8200m, 10,100m, 11,300m, 8600m vert

After a well deserved weekend at home we headed down to close the season at Mt Bachelor. The first 3 days were hardly Springtacular – the first day the lifts closed at 11.30am due to lightening (!) –  but the closing weekend brought sunny weather, silly costumes and lots of fun skiing.

3200m, 8200m, 6400m, 6300m, 6700m

Season Totals 63 days, 474,900m vert, 17 powder days

All in all, a decent season smattered with some truly wonderful skiing. Given the state of my knee on Sunday 7th January, I’m pretty pleased to still be able to churn out some decent vertical through the end of the season. The knee is far from perfect, but its manageable. Next challenge is biking season, with some long rides planned and serious training needed. If my knee survives that, there might just be some fun and games attempts to at least partially fix the bugger in early Fall.

Anything could happen.

Watch this space!

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Excellent March Cascades Skiing

We’ve been blessed with some sensational mid-late March skiing in our local resorts since returning from Lech. We started at Mission Ridge with a 6 inch cold smoke day on a typically mostly deserted Saturday. There were plenty of scraps left for Sunday too. A fabulous weekend with great snow and cold clear weather.

The following Friday was a wild one at Stevens Pass. 4 inches of snow had fallen overnight, but the solid base meant only the brave went off the groomers early. The weather then oscillated every 45 minutes or so between sunshine and absolute dumpage as the storm pulses rolled in from the west. By the end of the day, I was lapping the Winnie Chutes off Skyliner, picking up face shots. The rock solid base was nowhere to be found. Quite a day.

We carried on from where we left off Friday in some superb conditions at Mission Ridge. The late Friday afternoon storms had made it over to the east side of the Cascades and laid a soft blanket of snow on Mission’s runs. With no killer freeze-thaw cycle earlier in the week, the whole mountain skied great for the weekend under clear, cold blue skies. One day I’ll process the GoPro footage of this one. One day.

Finally, we spent last weekend at Crystal. This was one of those weekends where the weather forecast was as out of kilter as the Seattle Sounders forward line. Saturday was a fun, mostly groomer Spring day, but the promised sun never arrived to soften up the mountain.

By Sunday morning it was unexpectedly dumping. We left at 2pm and there were 5 inches on our car outside the Alpine Inn. Easter Sunday is a reliable ‘no one on the hill’ day, so all day there was freshies on the groomers, and as the base built. tasty turns were available all over the mountain. Loadsafun.

Another massive storm is rolling in off the Pacific as I write. We might be in for some fun at Whistler this weekend. I love Spring in the Cascades 🙂

Mission Ridge 8200m, 8500m vert

Stevens Pass 7800m vert

Mission Ridge 9400m, 8100m vert

Crystal 10,400m, 7900m vert

Season Totals 47 days, 340,700m vert, 17 powder days

Early March in Lech

Another year, another trip to the Arlberg. We arrived at the end of a super Arctic freeze, with a palpable relief in Lech that the -25C temps had moved on. After a day of funshine, small storms moved in delivering a solid 10cm+ of snow each night to play in for the next two days. It was perfect cruising conditions – morning pow, then to Warth one day, St Anton the other, where the conditions on Rendl were especially fine.

Spring returned for a day, perfect for cruising the north facing slopes of Stuben. Then a  serious storm arrived. A classic foggy Lech pow day ensued – great snow, iffy viz. A day for the hardcore amongst us. Beer sales in town were up that day, I suspect.

It continued to snow heavily overnight, and the morning sun revealed mountains coated in 20-30cm of fluffy,  light snow. The sort of day when you have heliskiing for the cost of a day ticket. A GoPro day for sure.

We finished the trip with Spring gripping the weather for the last 2 days. Some corn, some amazing slushy bumps, even a hint of light drizzle thrown into the mix.

Overall, another superb visit. This has been a great snow year in the Arlberg, and the base was deep everywhere. Crowds were light except in Zuers, where the new lift link to St Anton seems to bring a constant stream of visitors every morning. I think we skied Zuers less than ever before for this very reason. Weirdly St Anton seemed quieter.

Lots of pics here. And for the three of you who follow this blog, my knee mostly survived to fight another day. That made me very hoppy 🙂

9 days: 8600m, 9900m, 8400m, 8200m, 9500m, 8400m, 7500m, 8100m, 5400m vert

Season Totals: 40 days, 280,400m vert, 13 powder days

Fabbo Mission Ridge powder weekend

Our current theory is that Mission Ridge Skiing and Snowboarding Resort is simply a front for an alcohol sales business. This end of February weekend certainly provided considerable evidence towards confirming that theory. A sunny, cold Saturday morning dawned, with 4+ inches of excellent pow blanketing the mountain. Skiing both on and off groomed was really fantastic. It even got vaguely busy about 10am, with a few minutes of almost unheard of line control on Chair 2. And waits for maybe 3 minutes for a ride. 3 minutes!!!

Then at 10.30am the bar opened. We skied on to every chair for the rest of the day. And of course, as a scientist, I offer considerable photographic evidence.

It really was quite amazing, especially given the high-quality conditions.

I also like to think management read my last blog post about only skiing groomers this weekend to help my knee recovery. Miraculously Lemolo was groomed, Allah was groomed, and the ‘tree shot’ below the top pitch of Tumwater was groomed. Unheard of! Unfortunately, it seems it was not my plea,  the real reason being the mountain acquired a new winch cat groomer. They were certainly putting it to good use. With a light wind blowing snow up these runs all day, they were quite superb indeed.

Sunday was almost weirder. Gale force winds were forecast so predictably Chair 2 didn’t open. But with serious dumpage happening, we expected horrid lift lines at chairs 3 and 4.

The reality? We skied on to every chair all day. If there were 200 people skiing, I’d be amazed.

We traversed from Chair 3 to the lower Bomber runs, getting fresh tracks every run in blower, continually refreshing pow. We hiked the cat track past Johnsons to pick up a few more dreamy pow turns. Conditions were so good they even tempted me off the groomers into trees on lower Wawa and off the Warren Miller Memorial run (aka Tillicum – geddit? it’s cryptic).

What a weekend. And by all account from my buddies this weekend, it got even better …

Sat 7600m, Sun 5400m vert

31 days, 206,400m vert, 9 powder days

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

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