Tag Archives: powder skiing

This Post Will Make You Jealous

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This is not a real post.

Admittedly, I haven’t put up as much content lately. I’ve been far too busy. Skiing. So instead of letting another day/week go by without a word from me, I thought I’d put up some photos from yesterday. Spoiler alert. You’re going to be jealous. Even if you were here yesterday.

If you’d rather read something real, check out Jen Hudak’s post Sex and the Female Athlete, which eloquently scathes Freeskier’s 10 Hottest Women in Freeskiing article. If I wasn’t trying to dash out the door to go skiing, I’d probably write a post about how women in the ski industry need to be appreciated for their skills on the slopes, not their looks. But Jen does a much better job at it anyway. So just go read her.

Below are some photos from yesterday. It was one of those redemptive days, when you start off not  sure if you even like the PNW anymore, what with unreliable forecasts and heavy rains and high snow levels and all the things that make people move to Utah, and then suddenly you fall in love all over again. Yesterday was like that. Turns out the rain down low was snow up high, and when you drop over the edge in the wee hours of the morning because your General Manager husband wants to check it out before opening and the light is so flat you aren’t even sure what the conditions are and then you land on a pillow of snow that goes on forever. And you’re just happy to be alive. It was two feet of fresh snow, layered perfectly with heavier snow covering the rocks down low and lighter snow tickling your boot tops.

Then the sun came out.

A few early turns in Green Valley

A few early turns in Green Valley

 

Hiking up Powder Bowl for Avalanche Control yesterday, the sun came out just as we topped out.

Hiking up Powder Bowl for Avalanche Control yesterday, the sun came out just as we topped out.

After throwing shots in Powder Bowl, I got these untracked turns on Lucky Shot

After throwing shots in Powder Bowl, I got these untracked turns on Lucky Shot

We plan to continue opening terrain all week. With the cold temperatures and dry air, the skiing should just get better. That also means that we want to get this snow skied before it starts to facet. Cold temps and a shallow snowpack will bring avalanche problems later. So the pressure is on to get Southback and Northway open soon. Our current plan is to open High Campbell tomorrow, South on Thursday and Northway by the weekend.

Come and get it.

Happy Powbirthday to Me

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Today is my birthday and there is 12″ of fresh snow on the snow stake. What could be better than that? It started snowing hard yesterday afternoon and continued well past the apres ski hour. At 7AM it has started up again and already dumped a few inches of new. Here are a few pictures from yesterday. If you aren’t able to get off work, I recommend you don’t look at them.

Leftover Stashes and Playing to My Strengths

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Roses for us, PBR for them

You might think that I haven’t posted anything in the last few days because I have been too busy skiing powder at Crystal. According to Facebook it’s been off the hook up here. And that’s probably true. But I wouldn’t know.

Instead, I’ve been sharing my story with various groups across the state. That’s right. I’m becoming a Motivational Speaker, which is kind of an oxymoron (more about that next time).

I did sneak in a day of skiing at Stevens Pass on Tuesday with a dear friend of mine that I haven’t seen in ages. We visited the new memorial site for Jim, Johnny and Chris, the recent avalanche victims. The frozen roses were beautiful and tragic.

Afterwards I spoke to a group of High School Journalists all with bright futures ahead of them, and I’m pretty sure I convinced at least one of them to scrap her plans for college and instead become a ski bum (sorry Mom).

Then later I drove over three mountain passes in a single day. Needless to say, it’s been a bit of a world-wind. Now I’m back at Crystal, hoping to find some leftover stashes today (if I ever find myself at a job interview, I’m afraid I will claim this ability to find powder turns two days after a storm as my BIGGEST STRENGTH).

The forecast looks pretty settled for the weekend, with another cold front arriving Monday. Perhaps March will live up to the hype. Fingers crossed.

Spontaneity Rules

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My childhood desk was a work of art. It didn’t just sit in the corner of my room, accumulating piles of homework and stray scrunchies–it did that of course–but it also was a sort of friendship map. It was covered in colorful text. It included the phone numbers of everyone I ever knew, my oldest and dearest friend’s numbers relined and doodled upon lovingly. There was also the names of crushes outlined in painstakingly scrawled hearts, and quotations by my favorite authors. Hearts and mountains, raindrops and waves filled the spaces between the numbers. Some words and numbers were forgotten under the layers, others were new. But one line dominated the canvas. Across the top of my desk was written in big blue letters, “Spontaneity Rules.”

I was weird in High School. Not trench-coat wearing weird, more pseudo-intellectual weird (I pictured myself someday with Joan Baez hair and a book or two to my name, which is kinda strange when you think about it).

Lets just say I wasn’t your typical late 80s high schooler. Otherwise I’d have written “Beastie Boys Rule” or simply “Wham!”

Not me. I wasn’t going to be defined by my musical choices, but rather my lofty ideals. I had a loose plan of someday saving the world. Or at least showing the world how righteous you could be if you simply memorized a few quotations and outlined them in felt markers. I mean c’mon. We are the world, people.

My first car was a 1962 Ford Galaxie 500XL, and it was pretty sweet

My number one lofty ideal was spontaneity. Not that the daily grind of a high school Junior leaves many spur-of-the-moment decisions. There were the odd Fridays that I skipped afternoon classes and played pool at Jody’s instead. Sometimes I’d lower the top down on the Ford Galaxie when really summer was still months away. Or I might slide down the center of the outdoor escalators at the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Seattle just for fun.

Later, I would mourn the loss of this supposed spontaneity when I developed Type 1 diabetes and would need to take insulin and plan my activity with each dose of medication. When an unscheduled romp down a slip ‘n slide followed by a pick-up frisbee game could send you into diabetic shock, it’s easy to leave the bag of spontaneity by the front door.

So when my husband called me from two states away just after I finished by book signing at Brighton Resort on Saturday to ask me if I had any plans “Monday through Friday,” I didn’t even ask what he had up his sleeve. I remembered that old message scrawled across my desk and asked, “What do you have in mind?”

“Japan.” He said.

“What’s that noise in the background? Are you at the bar?”

“It’s puking in Japan.” I could hear him smile into the telephone. “Martin and Jesse and Scott are going too. Are you in or not?”

Maybe Japan will be something like this

I didn’t hesitate. “I’m in. Of course. It’s dumping? When?”

“Excellent. Now. Tomorrow.”

I would need to change my flight back to Seattle in order to make it happen. I calculated the gargantuan effort it would take to explain to John where my skis and all my gear was spread out in the patrol room–my ski boots in the boot drying room two pairs from the left, my powder skis one slot over from my locker next to the radio cabinet and behind another pair of skis, my helmet hanging above my locker on a peg, my ski pants at the apartment hanging on the back of the front door.

While he bagged up our ski gear, I’d head home from the airport and get our passports. We’d meet back at the airport an hour later. Could we do it?

“It’s dumping?”

“I just spoke to a woman in Hokkaido. The upper mountain was down today, roads are closed, cars are stuck. Its puking. Its sick.”

“Awesome. I’m all in.”

“Great,” John said. “I’ll call you back with the details in an hour.”

And so that was it. We are off to Japan to ski powder and eat sushi and soak in the hot tub with monkeys. I’ve been promised monkey hot tubbing, and I’m not leaving until I experience it. That and washing down a miso ramen with a Sapporo beer.

I’ll probably post a Japan condition report later in the week. And I might get out a High-Five Report sometime this week. But I may not even have internet connection since we don’t yet know where we’re staying. Oh did I mention that? We don’t actually have accommodations yet.

But that’s okay. Because “spontaneity rules!”

 

Simple Math: How to add up a powder day

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Tuesday Morning

+

Tuesday Night

+

Wednesday Morning

=

Enough Said

Storm Tracks, Powder Highs and Digging Lows

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The Pacific Northwest has enjoyed wild weather these past ten days. For a while there, the fire hose of the jet stream pointed right at us, bringing enough snow to open Crystal Mountain as well as the other ski areas in the state. We started with a skiff of snow that fell in October and never really left. Followed by cold, dry temperatures, that early snow sat on the ground and rotted out. A shallow snowpack is a weak snowpack, and when it finally snowed a few feet, enough to open the ski resort, we patrollers worried about the bond to that old layer. With widespread whoomfing and unnerving cracking, the snowpack waited for a heavy load to fail.

Giving Thanks on "White Friday" for the 12" of New Snow

That load arrived last week when we were hit with the Four W’s (wild, wet, windy and wacky). In 48 hours, a thick blanket of wind-packed 36″ of snow fell Monday and Tuesday, then turned to rain. Where skiers compacted the snowpack over the previous weekend, the slides were minimal. Elsewhere, not so much.

Bear Pits and Brand X both lost most of the season’s snow. It started snowing again on Thanksgiving and by Friday, we were back in action, enjoying our second powder high (following Bluebird Sunday) of the season.

Just before it turned to rain

When low pressure systems churn off the coast, moving further south as they approach, they often “dig” into the tropical moisture, and pull that warm air around in their track, bringing rain.

Whenever you hear forecasters calling for a “digging low” beware of warm moisture. This kind of pattern brings a best-of-times/worst-of-times scenario in which one day the mountains are blanketed in light, fresh powder, and the next day the temperature spikes, the wind picks up and everyone’s spirits are dampened.

This is why I love my job

Herein lies the lesson. When it’s powder, ski it. This is why I love my job. Not only do I get to throw explosives onto powdery slopes and watch the weather with the zeal of forecaster, I also learn to appreciate the smaller moments. When Ingrid Backstrom stopped to help me string a rope to close off a rocky section in Northway, I had to smile. I watched her ski away with my husband and friends as I clove hitched the orange and black rope to sticks of bamboo. But that’s okay. I’d gotten my turns in earlier. As I later explained to one of the new patrollers, our job isn’t so much about skiing ourselves as it is about providing that experience to others. Certainly we enjoy our fair share of turns. But it’s not just about the skiing. Joy and inspiration can come at any moment–even when the low digs too far, or friends ski powder while you set up a ropeline. All I have to do is look around me and I find it.

As for the weather forecast, things are setting down. A ridge of high pressure will build across Western Washington, bringing warm and dry days ahead. By Thursday, we expect low clouds in the valleys and clear, warm days in the mountains. Spring skiing anyone?

It’s Official: Another La Nina winter headed our way!

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When Larry Schick, the Grand Pubah of Powder, says it’s going to be a snowy

Bring it!

winter, take heed. The weather service announced today that we are in a weak La Nina pattern, which means above normal snowpack. Can I get a high-five? In Schick’s words:

Above normal snowfall is the exclusive and predictable NW seasonal weather feature produced by La Nina. No other region can make that claim. Everyone else will be rolling the dice. For us, the dice are loaded strongly in our favor with La Nina nudging the storms in our direction. Beyond our region, they are drooling with snow envy. See:
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=3

Drooling with snow envy? I like that. He’s also calling for an earlier than usual opening (yes!) a lackluster January (similar to last season) and a good spring (awesome!). Let’s here it for La Nina!