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

Tag Archives: Washington skiing

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


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

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






Wrapping up February at Mission Ridge

There was some seriously wild PNW weather in mid-February, and when we arrived at Mission at President’s weekend Saturday, it was clearly in ice-storm recovery mode. We had 2 inches of heavy snow on firm stuff underneath, which was excellent for 3 runs. Then it got skied off. So Saturday was ok, but by Monday the ski hill was covered in many more inches of super light snow and we had a genuine, wonderful powder day. It was a day spent in trees that now have fantastic cover. Pick a line off the cat track or sneak into Wawa trees, and there was great pow everywhere.

The following weekend was a little similar. Saturday was a good groomer day with fun off-piste excursions. Sunday was a dumping powder day. More snow. More ripping tree avoiding excitement. And there were maybe 500 people on the hill. Welcome to Mission Ridge.

Pres Weekend: 5600m, 9500m, 8500m vert

Sat 8500m, Sunday 8200m vert

Season Totals: 39 days,  321,700m vert, 10 powder days


Powder Weekend at Mission Ridge

It was about 10.30 Saturday morning at Mission. Already two or so inches of pow had come down, and while stood at the top of the Tillikum run, I heard some locals say ‘this is already better than any time last season’. I don’t normally give credence to idle ski hill gossip, but this was convincing as it was the third such comment I’d heard in an hour. The conditions were in fact very good, and getting better every minute. And last season must have been terrible indeed – a good one to miss 🙂

It pretty much snowed from 9am Saturday until 10am Sunday. Good early conditions were transformed to a ‘free refills every run’ powder day by early Saturday afternoon. This was superb skiing – there were so few people and so much snow you could leave fresh tracks on groomers by mid afternoon. Every run.

By Sunday 13+ inches had come down. Unfortunately Sunday morning suffered the Barwin Curse of the Liberator quad remaining stationary due to weather. Luckily The Curse broke by noon, and while most of the pow was crusted by the wind, the groomers and off piste areas protected from the wind were primo.

This storm will have done wonders to the ski hill base. If the weather doesn’t get crazy El Nino warm and wet, Mission could have a pretty good season. It’s certainly looking promising right now, but El Nino years are about as predictable as the GOP primaries, and sometimes a lot less entertaining. Keep those fingers and toes crossed everyone, and drink Ullr with vigor!!

Saturday 8800m, Sunday 5700m vert

Season totals: 6 days, 46,400m vert, 1 powder day




Day 1 2016 at Mt Baker

November 20th – Day 1, and Mt Baker’s second day of operations, was a not one to snip at. In fact, with the Godzilla El Nino looming over the next few months, no decent ski days should be snipped at right now. The storms from the last week had left Baker with a 35-60 inch base, plenty to open a chunk of this mountain’s less extreme terrain. And every chair ride, all solo apart from 2, gave opportunities to soak in the magnificent mountainous landscape of the North Cascades. Mt Baker is truly tucked away in a stunning location.

It’s always interesting to ski big bouldery mountains with an early season snow pack. Runs that are flat mid-season pitch and roll over and around the huge rocks that lie beneath. I guess there were a few patches of flat-ish groomers, but mostly this was a day of spaced out bump skiing with lots of steep pitches on a firm base.

For November, it was great!!!

Day 1 5900m vertical

Mission Ridge at the end of January

The snow drought continued through  to the last weekend of January. With no massively appealing options, we headed back to our staple, Mission Ridge. Colder east-side temperatures, no rain, and a good chunk of north-facing mountain should have worked wonders during this freeze-thaw cycle.

Our intuition was pretty spot on. There was still excellent snow off anything below Windy Ridge, a good 3/4s of the mountain. Maggi’s, Lemolo, and lower down WaWa and all the tree shots in the vicinity rode well all weekend. Mission’s trademark wind also helped, blowing in new cover to smooth out bumps and soften chopped up crud.

By 3pm Saturday, with a decent amount of very under our belts, it seemed like a good idea to have some comedy. Beer, boots change and time to try teleskiing. The results are here.

I’d have done a third run if my borrowed boots hadn’t cut off all blood circulation to my feet. Maybe another time?

9200m, 8300m vert

Season Totals: 47 days, 20 powder days, 442,700m vert

Cruising the Cascades in early January

The only place in striking distance where new snow was forecast was the Washington Cascades, so that’s where we headed for the first weekend of 2013. First stop, Mission Ridge, delivered it’s usual mix of soft packed and wind blown pow, shredding groomers and  little treasures lurking in the nooks and crannies of the mountain. And due to the NFL Playoffs, it felt like we had the mountain to ourselves.

Next stop was Crystal Mountain, where the storms were due to hit big time. On Monday we benefited from 3 inches overnight, and constant snowfall in the morning. This started to freshen a somewhat frozen front side of the mountain, while on north facing slopes we found fine powder skiing as plentiful as dykes at a Florence + The Machine gig. It kept snowing lightly into Tuesday, and propelled by wind, Powder Bowl was a billowing powfest and groomer pow was everywhere and wonderful, even on the surprisingly finely manicured Glacier (aka Middle Ferk).

The big storm was due Tuesday night, but like the Republicans acceptance of tax hikes for the rich, it arrived somewhat late. But when it arrived at 7am, it turbo dumped. Northway had been closed the previous day, so as the new snow built up on yesterday’s freshies, the skiing was amazing. So few people were competing for the terrain, virtually top-to-bottom lines of deep untracked were available for the picking by mid-morning. The wonders of midweek skiing had me smiling like Ted Nugent at a gun rally.

We headed home via White Pass, where we hoped the remnants of the storm would be available for the picking. First lift rides confirmed these hopes, but the frontside untracked and wind blown layer hid mine fields beneath. The groomers rode like semi-freddo, but angular frozen bumps and steeps with death slide potential lurking off groomed soon made us enthusiastic to explore the newer terrain off the Couloir Express. The difference was remarkable. Additional altitude kept the base soft, and the lack of crowds kept the pow plentiful. Low angle cruising through the trees in the beautiful, cold sunshine kept us happy for the rest of the day.

Mission Ridge: 9600m, 8400m vert

Crystal: 9500m, 11200m, 10200m vert

White Pass: 7400m vert

Season Totals: 31 days, 15 powder days, 281,400m vert