Why October is Hard for Skiers


3 inches measured at an angle

Every year it’s the same. I’m ready to ski about 4 weeks too early. I start checking the forecast models, awaiting the long-range forecast, and keep my fingers crossed for a better than average snow year. This year I just might get my wish.

Earlier this week I hiked up to the base of Green Valley chair at Crystal, hoping to take photos of accumulated snow on bright autumn foliage, and my make first snowball of the season And I did. As John likes to say when the snow fall is less than deep, there was about 3 inches “measured at an angle.”

But what I didn’t expect to see was wildflowers. Crystal (along with the rest of the PNW) had a late summer. It didn’t top 80 degrees until August, and the wildflowers were late this year.

I love the unexpected. Even though I’m ready for winter, the wildflowers apparently are not. With the late summer at Crystal (and nearly everywhere else in the PNW, the flowers didn’t bloom until August, and some, apparently, not until September. A few left overs are now surprised by the early snow.

For me a sharp line exists between the season of flowers and honeybees and the season of fresh, snow and thin, splintery light. But really it’s a continuum between the two, ever changing and mutable.

Stoking the fire

October is a hard month for skiers. There’s the relentless effort of the ski industry, poking their movies and ad campaigns into last year’s embers, gladly fanning the flames. Then there are the still-bare slopes. Last year’s sharp-limned summer grooming might poke up through the first dusting of snow, but we all know we aren’t quite there yet. We are living in this in-between-but-severely-amped-up neverland between hills-are-alive summer wildflowers and oh-so-sweet first days of the season.

Some call it Autumn, I call it disconcerting. I know that I should be here now. I should don my most zen-like mien and enjoy these next fifteen minutes.

And I’m trying. See? I even took photos of the lovely flowers poking through the snow. I even wrote this blog post claiming, “I love the unexpected.”

And I do. I really do. I love all sorts of unexpected: storms that come in at night on Carl Sandburg’s cat’s paws and deposit several inches; stashes of powder still fresh days later; arriving at my favorite drop-in in Southback (SE L, for the initiated) and finding it pristine.

Hopefully Soon

But certain sorts of unexpected are not so welcome. I won’t rehash them today. For those of you following along, you know what I’m talking about.

Forgive me my preoccupation with snow. As soon as it arrives, I won’t obsess. Dutifully portray the splendor of snow, yes. Obsess about the lack thereof, no. Pinky swear. You just might have to bear with me a few more weeks.

How about you? Are you a skier waiting for the snow to fill in?

4 responses »

  1. Great posts and writing. Thanks. Also have been enjoying your book. By the way I just want to mention that it is worth looking at the crystal mountain webcam today. The top of the mountain is clearly snow capped already which I was excited to see. Can hardly wait for the upcoming snowboarding season at Crystal with the pass i got.

  2. yea, I’m starting to think about the ski season to come, but actually I was just in a prolonged summer in Italy and was jarring to go from summer to fall in about 16 hours traveling time. flying in over the north cascades was beautiful last thursday, lots of fresh snow on the higher peaks, lots of white actually. now I have to hunker down starting tomorrow for lots of work in front of the computer and OT over weekends, so the blogging will slow down, sigh. gotta get your book too! was going to today but we ended up not making it to the bookstore ’til after it closed, want to buy from an indie store.

  3. Kim

    As a fellow patroller, I enjoy your blog–keep up the good work. Was coming home yesterday from our annual Mt. Hood Ski Patrol ski swap and noticed all the cars coming off Mt Hood with boards and skis on top. You and all your skiing buddys and followers are welcome to come up to Timberline Lodge for early season turns on the Palmer snowfield. They operat Friday thru Sunday weather permitting and have had new snow with everything white at 8500 feet.

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