It’s finally snowing in the base area. After another 6″ in Green Valley overnight, today will be a good day. But any day in the mountains is great. See you in the slopes.
There’s one last weekend to ski at Crystal before we switch over to full summer operations. Green Valley and the Gondola will be open Saturday and Sunday for one last hurrah of the 2012 spring skiing season. It has been an interesting few months, with the weather conditions running the gamut from winter to summer and back again.
Currently the forecast for Sunday (the better of the two days) is calling for partly sunny skies with a chance of showers in the Cascades. Not bad, considering that it’s currently foggy and misting from the Sound to the Cascades. The weather here giveth and it taketh away. But at least our forests are not exploding in firestorm.
Oh, and the bonus? Sunday is July 1st, which means that for all you turns-all-year folks, you can check off that skiing-in-July box the very first day of the month. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.
I suppose the purpose of Spring is to make the loss of Winter seem okay. Daffodils are sprouting and cherry trees are blossoming like snowfall caught in their branches.
Winter is almost over, and it is bittersweet.
I enjoy spring skiing–when the snow changes to isothermal pellets frozen harder each night and softer each warm day–but so far we haven’t had much. Instead the snow has kept on, relentlessly prolonging winter. In the past 30 days, we’ve had 13 feet of snow at Crystal. The windows in my house are now completely buried under 10 feet of snow. I tried to dig them out the other day, just to get a sliver of light into my bedroom, but it was futile. The drip line of the roof has created an impenetrable line of frozen snow that bent my shovel.
It’s too bad that the days are getting warmer and longer. My favorite chutes are filled in now. All the roughest parts of the mountain are smooth; the snow has covered over all the grooves and crevices and erased the cliffs. But soon the sun–if we do see it this weekend as predicted–will shrink the snow away from the rocks. Soon Winter will lose its grip and Summer will prevail.
I had my hair cut yesterday in anticipation of soon being seen without a hat on.
This is supposed to happen, of course. Life changes. We grow older. Relationships end. New ones begin. Snow melts. Flowers sprout. For most city dwellers, the arrival of Spring must be grand. But for a skier, it’s bittersweet.
Sure, I love sun. I long to feel its rays warm the part in my hair and soften my cold bones. I look forward to walking barefoot in warm grass and dipping my legs in cool water. I can’t wait to trade my ski boots for flipflops.
I just wish the snow could stick around too. I want it all–warm days in the valleys and cold smoke in the mountains. I want to play one day on my slackline and paddle across a smooth lake on my board, then ski powder the next. I want to gather the best moments of my life and live them all at once. Life is too short to space out our joy this way.
But then I notice a patch of daffodils and can’t help but look forward to the smell of dirt and leaves warmed by the sun. I’m curious about the wildflowers this season. Will they arrive earlier this summer? Will they be glorious? Will the lake warm up by June? Will the Spring snow stay on the volcanoes long enough to be climbed and skied in stable weather?
We’ve had such a good winter, I hate to see it go. But then again it has been a tough winter. Every snowfall has come with wind. The upper mountain was closed far too often. Many parts of the country had dismal snowfall. Perhaps I should welcome the change.
Not before I ski a few more days however. Crystal will remain open on weekends as long as the snow lasts, so it isn’t over. Soon my windows will let in light again as the snow retreats.
That’s the way it should be I suppose.
- All I Want for Christmas is….SNOW (kimkircher.com)
Looks like a return to wintery conditions this week with what the forecasters at NOAA are calling a troughy week that “IS A VERY GOOD PATTERN FOR SKIERS WHO PREFER THE LACK OF CROWDS IN MARCH BUT LIKE DEEP SNOW.”
Truer words were never spoken. Might be a good week for some midweek skiing. Just saying.
Northwest skiers are pretty hardcore. The past several days have brought challenging weather conditions to Western Washington and still the skiers came up to brave the elements. Seems we just can’t get enough. On Sunday, before Rex and the Gondola temporarily went on wind hold, I stood at the top of Green Valley in 70mph winds and watched the skiers glide by in droves. Northway had just opened and epic powder awaited. But first they had to ski through a hurricane to get there.
Sunday was one of those days that skiers dream of. The morning started early with First Tracks Breakfast, where I hooked up with Ingrid, Tiana and Kerry–other ski professionals that also had the day off. We lapped Green Valley and Memorial Forest until Northway opened, then dropped into Paradise and enjoyed the deep, untracked snow.
At one point I looked around at the hoards of skiers all wearing high-tech clothing, helmets and goggles, moving through hurricane force winds to get at the powder. Later Ingrid, who skis all over the world, declared Crystal skiers as the most hardcore she’s ever come across. Other skiers, she claims, are spoiled. Here, we’re just really into it. I have to agree. These people are dedicated.
And I understand why. We have it pretty good here. The weather can be brutal, but when it’s on, there’s no place like Crystal.
So here’s to all those folks plying the windy vortex this weekend, their smiles turned to stony ice, their whoops swallowed by the wind. Bravo guys. Because when Ingrid Backstrom says you rock, then well, you pretty much do.
This photo was taken at 2:30pm today. We have high hopes for this storm. Oh please Ullr, bring us some snow!
The Northwest Avalanche Center puts out a weather and avalanche forecast every day of the winter, and for mountain people, these guys are invaluable. Thanks to NWAC meteorologists Garth Ferber, Kenny Kramer and Mark Moore, snowsports enthusiasts and backcountry skiers know a whole lot more about the conditions. Not only do these three maintain various telemetry stations throughout the state which allow the casual browser to view snowfall totals, water amounts and wind directions, among other data across the Olympics and Cascades, these guys also put out daily forecasts.
Every morning Garth, Kenny or Mark release a detailed Avalanche Forecast for the region, complete with a Danger Rose, Snowpack Analysis and Avalanche Forecast. Before venturing into the backcountry, just check the NWAC website to find great information about the snowpack and which aspects and elevations to avoid.
In addition to the avalanche forecast, the center also offers a detailed weather forecast as well. If you’re lucky, you might even get that forecast in the form of a poem.
Mark Moore is known for his wild weather forecasts, and he’s also called a “weather poet”. Not only does he study the forecast models, translating the colorful images into water totals and wind estimates, he also might put the outlook into rhymed verse. Here’s an example:
Settlement is coming but not fast enough-
And it’s hard to focus with all of that fluff.
So whatever your sport, whatever your skill,
Be avalanche aware or else you it will kill.
Needless to say, the Avalanche Meteorologists at NWAC are a great resource for anyone venturing into the mountains. Whether a backcountry skier looking for an avalanche forecast or a resort rider wanting to know just how light that 3″ that fell at his favorite ski area really was, look no further than your local avalanche center.
These guys deserve a high-five. Bravo Mark, Kenny and Garth. Now carry on!
With Thanksgiving arriving tomorrow, I’m feeling very grateful that the rain turned back to snow this morning. The weather has been pretty wild in the past 48 hours, and tomorrow another weaker system is forecast to bring more snow. If I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on Friday as the best day of the week to ski.
Today was definitely not it. While it didn’t rain all the way to the top, the conditions today redefined “Cascade Concrete;” it was thick and gluey and wet. I took a photo of a tree encased in water-ice and snow. Thankfully, after the temperature dropped, we picked up about 5″ of lighter, more skiable snow. This was on top of about 36″ of wind-blasted snow that fell (flew, blew) yesterday. Snowboarders had it much easier today.
Last night the wind blew over 100mph, but didn’t cause too much damage. It’s amazing how hardy the trees are in the mountains. A few limbs and bits of moss littered the slopes this morning, but for the most part, the landscape withstood hurricane force winds and didn’t seem much the worse for wear.
I just love the resilience and adversity of the mountains. It makes me feel stronger and more humble all at once. I’m thrilled to see the storms lining up in the Pacific. Winter is certainly here, and La Nina will do her bidding.
Tomorrow afternoon’s system should bring in another 8′ and Friday is supposed to offer a break between systems. It could be crowded, so get here early. For those of you not planning on a big turkey dinner with the fam, the slopes should be uncrowded and the snow should start falling in the afternoon. The day could end well.
See you all on the slopes.