Its been a rough few weeks  with way to much drama in my hometown. Thus, I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Colorado to visit, Chris, a friend from college who I hadn’t seen in 8 years. It also looked like that if i wanted to actully do some inbound skiing this winter I would have to travel. The WA resorts are barely open (if at all) and the snow pack is low, icy and hard.

Chris and I opted to ski Copper Mountain. This is a mid-range priced resort in CO. If you buy tickets online 24 hours in advance or at King Scoopers it will cost $90. Rentals vary depending on your setup. I ended up getting demo skis because I wanted fat skis that resembled my Line Pandoras back in WA.

A massive snowstorm had passed through Colorado the day before so there was tons of fresh powder to make tracks. Chris and I skis pretty much every lift. The green, blue and diamond trails all seem to be bunched together in their own sections making of constant runs. There is a descend amount of tree skiing which I tried for the first time and great parks for folks like Chris is like doing tricks.

It was great to ski is powder and not Cascade Concrete for a change!

The past 8 days have been marked by the  “pineapple express” (that is… weather systems coming in from Hawaii) bombarding the Pacific Northwest with heavy rains in the lowlands and hefty snowfall in the mountains. The increase in white precipitation led to high avalanche danger according to NWAC (several folks have already died in avalanches) so Jeff, Eric and I avoided backcountry adventures and headed for Mt Baker Ski Area on today, Sunday… the day before President’s Day.

As could be expected, deep powder in combination with a holiday weekend made for a very crowded slope. We waited for about 25 minutes to board Chair 7 from the White Salmon Lodge. Snow feel heavily though it wasn’t overly cold. My hands were chilled though as I discovered upon our arrival that I had packed my OR Northback right hand glove and Eric’s OR Northback right hand glove (he was wearing a different pair today). Thus.. I ended up wearing two glove liners under a mid-weight, non-waterproof glove meant for autumn temperatures that I had with me for some strange and lucky unknown reason. After getting passed Chair 7 the other lifts didn’t have as long a wait… though there was a wait; rare for Baker. The except to this was Chair 6 as many folks wanted to get onto the Experts Only slopes for some deep powder action. And deep it was! Most of the time it was hard to believe we were on groomed trails. The powder was calf to knee high! I am not used to sinking in the snow as I ski.. most of my technique was developed with Cascade Concrete snow and there was a bit of a learning curve to get through when it came to dealing with powder. If i didn’t move fast enough I got lodged in it!

Heavy Snow at Mt Baker

After our lunch break the snow grew even heavier and by mid-afternoon the winds picked up causing white outs. Sometimes I had to paused on the way down and wait for the wind to die down so I could see… and sometimes the wind blew so hard against me that I stopped moving forward! We called it a day at 3:00pm hoping to beat the typical vehicle backup on the way down the mountain at the official closing time. The weather as also still deteriorating making it difficult to ski safely and the roads possibly more treacherous.

All in all… a good pow day, but the weather and crowds made things a bit iffy.

 

 

After having such a great time skiing at Mt. Baker I decided I couldn’t wait very long to do it all again. I had gotten a distant view of the frozen Pan Dome Falls and, with the sudden cold snap, I thought it would be a great time to check out the ice climb.  Jeanelle was game to drive down from Canada to ski and attempt the climb so I shoved my new ice screws into my pack and drove back to Mt Baker Tuesday morning.

After telling me how the border patrol had heavily questioned her regarding who she was meeting in America Jeanelle and I squashed our feet into our constricting ski boots and hit ski lift 7 from the White Salmon Lodge. I had never been Mt Baker Ski Area mid-week and was pleasantly surprised at how empty it was. There were only two rows of cars in the lot all day and we were lucky if we ran into another group on the slopes. The Canyon was closed again due to avalanche danger. The half pipe and runs near Chair 6 were also shut down in preparation of the Banked Slalom occurring this coming weekend. Snow conditions were not as powdery as Friday had been and some spots were icy, but the skiing was still very good. It should be noted that the black diamond runs from the Expert Only Chair had shallow moguls in large stretches. Clouds covered the ski most of the day, but they were mostly and we were treated to glimpses of the mountains and Shuksen appeared late afternoon. Temperatures were extremely cold and we were forced wear more layers than normal along with a full face baklava.

Jeanelle and I stayed in the lodge after the lifts closed well after everyone had gone; savoring the last of civilizations warmth and comfort until we had not chose but to venture back into the chill for the night. We boiled water for dinner over my MSR Universal Stove after some issues getting it ignited (I didn’t pump the fuel tank enough at first) and enjoyed couscous and freeze dried veggies with cans of half frozen tuna. We put the seats down and struggled into our sleeping bags until we resembled caterpillars in our cocoons. We the windows cracks to prevent major frosting we chatted until it was time for sleep.

The Northwest has been deprived of snow this year to a massive extent. For example, The Olympic Mountain only have 25 percent of the snow they usually have at this time of year and Mt Rainier resembles its June snow cover. Thus, when snow was in the forecast on Wednesday and yesterday this week, Eric and I celebrated by driving out to Mt Baker Ski Area to get in some downhill time. After all, we might not see fresh powder for another month!

The  trails were in great conditions. Fresh soft powder (not concrete) was layered nicely over the runs in early morning. It was clear that there was less snow cover than normal for those who chose to weave in and out of the trees and around the exposed rocks, but for folks like us who stay on the groomed tracks the snow cover was great with nothing sticking up out of the ground. The weather remained mild throughout the day with low clouds that broke every now and then to reveal views of the mountains. We never got full sun exposure which was great.

I saw many folks using the backcountry areas surrounding Mt Baker which concerned me since the Cascades were on a Considerable avalanche alert. The Canyon run was closed due to avalanche danger as well… this saddened me as I consider it the best trail at Baker. At one point Eric and I took a wrong turn and ended up in the trees beside the Canyon. We had to take off our skis (well my skis and his snowboard) and fight our way up the hill back to the main open slopes. Hard work with the horrid ski boots!

All it all it was a wonderful day out on the slopes. Now it is time for a nice freeze dried dinner and a good night sleep in my car!