Why do we associate snow with winter? I’ve been in the snow more times this spring than I can count on one hand. However, I’m still having a hard time letting go and accepting the snow is melting.
I didn’t realize how much snow would shape my life after moving to the PNW, where I found skiing.
I’ve been skiing every winter since moving to the PNW with at least 10-plus days. If it’s raining the in the city, it’s usually snowing in the mountains. I have to be at my work desk during the week anyways, so I don’t mind unless it’s a powder day.
As I learned, my goal was to ski at resorts to get comfortable with various terrain and conditions. Little did I know how much energy I would spend trying to improve. Greens, blues, blacks, double blacks, moguls, chutes, couloirs…It’s taken five years of skiing and testing the limits.
I recently reached 45 days of skiing in one season (November to May). I’m not giving up on winter, but the snow is changing. My local resort closed at the end of April, and I’ll be exploring the higher elevations in search for turns I have to earn.
Lately, I’ve been craving camping, climbing, and campfires, so I reflect on the ski season and sprinkle in backcountry days as it fits. Will I ever ski this much in one season again? Only time will tell.
The start of the season left me huffing and puffing to Mt. Rainier’s Camp Muir. I stopped short due to bare conditions and physical endurance. It didn’t matter though as I was skiing mid-November.
I spent Black Friday skiing instead of working thanks to a thing called #OptOutside. It was a nice surprise that Mt. Baker Ski area was open. I saved money by camping out in the parking lot and am fortunate that the PNW ski areas allow overnight guests. I already had a couple of early season days in before December.
December had more powder days than normal, which meant the ski resorts were open and ready for business. Avoiding the holiday crowds traveling to Pennsylvania to visit family, we were treated to empty lift lines and a Christmas powder day full of skiing at our local mountain.
After Christmas, we hit the road and traveled to Big Sky, Montana. On the way, we stopped at Lookout Pass, Idaho and skied the backcountry terrain. I kicked off the New Year by skiing the Big Couloir at Big Sky Resort (my first couloir) visiting a friend who had just moved to the area.
In early January, I traveled to the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show for work, where I got a couple of days of skiing in before Andy flew to meet me for a weekend at Deer Valley and Solitude Mountain. It was our first time skiing in Utah, and we couldn’t wait to return later in the season.
Taking Friday off and having Monday as a U.S. holiday, we drove north into Canada to a small town called Ymir with a group of friends. It was my first helicopter ride to ski, which took us to the remote Ymir Backcountry Lodge in the Kootenays. We didn’t have to share the untracked snow with anyone else. It was so good, we already have our reservations for next year.
Thanks to President’s Day in the U.S., we took a long weekend to ski at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village with the Mountain Collective pass, along with Kicking Horse and Revelstoke. Kicking Horse got me into steep skiing and is one my favorite new resorts of the season.
After months of talking about doing a Mountain Collective road trip, a resort pass for various resorts throughout the country, we finally hit the road for a week away from work. Jackson Hole, Alta, Snowbird, and Sun Valley were on all on the itinerary. Even though it was snowing 10-plus inches at home, we were still excited to see new resorts. Adding a day in the backcountry, we joined friends to ski Wimpy’s in Grand Teton National Park.
A little over three years ago, I didn’t summit Mt. St. Helens. I returned to the volcano as a backcountry skier–the trips couldn’t have been more different. We introduced our friend to backcountry skiing as he (pictured above) summited and yipped with joy as he descended.
My network of ski friends is expanding. I made five trips to Whistler-Blackcomb last season chasing snow and two Raclette parties. With a good El Niño season, I was able to stay local. Not wanting to miss a new tradition of Raclette parties at Whistler, we invited a large group of friends, rented an AirBnB, skied, and ate cheese.
Snowgator – a snow tailgating party that usually involves skiing (or snowboarding), alcoholic beverages, spring conditions, and grilling with friends. It’s our fifth year, and we decided to hold it at Stevens Pass, WA. We stop trying to add up the vertical feet for the day and enjoy the end of the season with friends.
After other plans were canceled due to road closure. we were in search of a place to ski. The Stoneman Couloir was a great back-up option. We camped in the Mt. Baker ski lot the night before and had a nice day booting up steep terrain with gorgeous, spring weather. It might have been a little too warm for our liking, and Will skied out a small slide at the end of the day.
I was happy when I texted a girlfriend about weekend plans–a mid-week decision to climb Mt. Hood. She was more than happy to have one more join their group. The plan was to ski it. The forecast for our anticipated summit time was estimated in low 20-degree with 20 mph winds. Buh-buh-brrrrr. I continued to ask myself why I chase after snowy mountains to miss a high 70-degree day at sea-level. A sense of accomplishment left me the answer.
I mentioned craving campfires and camping. Well a weekend in Mazama filled my soul. I kicked of the first weekend in May with some multi-pitch sport climbing followed by a day climbing up to Hinkhouse Peak above Washington Pass. The North Cascades never cease to take my breath away.
With glaciated mountains in the PNW, I’m hoping to get a couple more ski days under my belt before fully committing to a rock and mountaineering climb season.