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It’s Official. Crystal Mountain Opens Friday 


Let’s get this 2016-17 season started, shall we?  Crystal will open Friday with the gondola running for upload and download. Green Valley will be open for skiing and riding. More terrain will open as we get more snow. Who’s planning on taking part?

Mt. Rainier’s Rain Shadow


Mt. Rainier is taking it for the team.  For the Crystal Mountain team, that is.

In the past 24 hours, Paradise has seen twice the amount of moisture we have, and most of that has been rain. Yesterday, it snowed gloriously at the ski area, staying cold until happy hour. We picked up 7 inches of snow before the temperatures spiked.  That’s when the wind shifted around and Mt. Rainier blocked us from the worst of the storm. Notice the first graph from Paradise. Between 1400 and 1900, it rained (see temperature fourth from left) nearly 1.5 inches. Then check the second graph from Crystal. It didn’t switch to rain until 1700 hours, after which we only picked up .4 inches of rain.

     Date    Time    Temp Wind Speeds/Dir Hrly/24 Hr H2o
Paradise, Mt. Rainier:
     12 12   400    40    22    36   275   .05  2.41
     12 12   300    40    23    36   276   .07  2.36
     12 12   200    41    23    38   271   .06  2.29
     12 12   100    41    24    37   272   .06  2.23
     12 12     0    41    24    37   269   .06  2.17
     12 11  2300    40    20    43   271   .06  2.11
     12 11  2200    39    14    23   260   .09  2.05
     12 11  2100    39    18    30   268    .1  1.96
     12 11  2000    37    18    26   268   .12  1.86
     12 11  1900    36    19    30   265   .24  1.74
     12 11  1800    35    17    26   264   .11   1.5
     12 11  1700    33    13    26   266   .24  1.39
     12 11  1600    33     5    11   247   .25  1.15
     12 11  1500    32     2     7   121   .22    .9
     12 11  1400    32     4     9   358   .26   .68    

 Crystal Mountain Ski Area:

 12 12   400    37    41    68   241   .01  1.41
 12 12   300    36    47    79   264     0   1.4
 12 12   200    37    40    68   257     0   1.4
 12 12   100    36    39    67   243   .03   1.4
 12 12     0    36    41    72   234   .01  1.37
 12 11  2300    37    45    73   254     0  1.36
 12 11  2200    36    41    58   213   .01  1.36
 12 11  2100    37    34    51   224   .05  1.35
 12 11  2000    35    27    63   229   .08   1.3
 12 11  1900    35    24    60   256   .05  1.22
 12 11  1800    33    27    66   283   .11  1.17
 12 11  1700    31    25    43   259   .14  1.06
 12 11  1600    29    30    50   213   .13   .92
 12 11  1500    25    25    42   168   .17   .79
 12 11  1400    24    22    44   153   .19   .62

The news was even worse for the other ski areas that saw upwards of 4 inches of rain in the past 24 hours.  It’s nice to know that Mt. Rainier is watching over us.

Avalanche Control


Today was a bluebird day at Crystal Mountain. My day started with avalanche control in Southback, and it was a beautiful, crystalline morning. The other team members broke trail while I snapped photos, trying to capture the sparkling snow haloes, the backlit clouds against jagged peaks and the luxurious light. There’s nothing quite like pristine snow mixed with explosives to really make one feel close to God.  Well, maybe not the explosives.  That is, unless you are a ski patroller.

Unfortunately, Chair 6 broke down today, and so only a few lucky skiers got to experience Southback.  Hopefully, they savored their turns, tasting the powder, inhaling the light.  Because today was something extraordinary.  And I, for one, am glad I got to experience it.

The Big 4-O


Today I am 40 years old.  Just yesterday, I was turning 21, and then 30 and now this.   I remember my father’s 40th birthday party.  We children spied on the grown-ups doing God-knows-what with those hats and feather boas.

And now here I am.

Turning 40 begs a little soul searching–a literal sweep of the cobweb strings clinging to my psyche.  And ever since I woke up this morning, mentally rehearsing the words I’m forty years old in my head, I’ve been doing just that.

What have I learned in my forty years on this earth?  A little of this, a little of that, I suppose is my best answer. But there’s something more just under the surface.

When I was younger, I amassed adventures like glass paper weights, setting them on the mantle to be admired.  See that one?  That’s me in the Alps.

Here I am climbing Mt. Rainier.




And how about this one?


That’s when I jumped out of an airplane.


Oh and over here, that’s when John and I kicked cancer’s ass.






Standing here on the very verge of 40, I know now that it’s more than collecting snapshots.  I go to nature to open up, so that when I return I can better connect.  It’s my way of preparing myself for human interaction.

I’m neither an introvert or an extrovert, but rather an adventrovert.  I need to challenge myself a little, put myself out there just a touch, shake up my routines.  Then I can connect with others.

Over the weekend, my husband threw me a 40th birthday party.  There was a photo booth with a life-sized cut out of me that guests could pose with (hilarious).  Beside the bar was a shot luge–an ice sculpture complete with ski tracks, down which would swirl peppermint schnapps for the lucky recipient waiting at the runout (dangerous).  And best of all, most of my friends and family, including childhood cohorts, sung me happy birthday (amazing).

40 doesn’t look so bad anymore.  After all, this is the good stuff.

Surface Hoar


Beauty can be dangerous.  This is never more obvious than when admiring sparkly surface hoar–winter’s version of morning dew. Surface hoar grows only on cold, calm nights.


I woke up yesterday morning to a fresh blanket of surface hoar covering the slopes like sparkly corn flakes.  Each individual crystal forms like a striated plate, stealing substance from real snow crystals to reach towards the heavens.

And it is beautiful.

Not only does a blanket of hoar render snowy hillsides brilliant and sparkly, it also freshens the powder.  I love skiing hoar.  Swishing as my skis break through it, a tiny tinkling sound accompanies my turns.

But hoar is a bitch.  When buried by later snow storms (perhaps Tuesday’s impending weather system, fingers crossed) the surface hoar can remain in tact. Imagine flat, icy plates propped on their edges, ready to fall like a house of cards. And that is exactly what surface hoar does.  When buried under calm conditions by new snow, surface hoar becomes a buried weak layer.  The new snow might become the slab.  That’s really all that’s needed for an avalanche–a cohesive slab of snow over a weak layer.

But still I admire the surface hoar.  It sparkles, it tinkles, it fans out in beautifully intricate designs.

Perhaps there are beautiful weak layers buried within me.  Maybe it is those sharp-edged crystals standing on end, so fragile and so precarious, that make me lovable. My husband recently told me that he loves me because of my flaws, not in spite of them.  Who wants perfection in their lives?  No one can live up to that.  Instead, I suppose, we all have buried weak layers inside our own snowpack.

And today, I’m okay with that.

Melissa Henninger–Outdoor Photography


A clear shout out goes to my friend and photographer, Melissa Henninger.  Last year I asked Melissa to come to my house to take some pictures of me.  I needed an “author photo”, you know, the one that would some day go on the back of a book jacket.  At the time, I was knee deep in rejection letters, and I needed to do something positive towards my goal of one day being a published author.

It was a beautiful fall day.  Sun light slanted across my yard in a fused, forgiving light.  I wore purple. 

Melissa snapped some photos, changed lenses a few times and snapped some more.  She sat me down on the porch, on the steps to the boathouse, on the lawn.  And somehow, even though I wasn’t sure these photos would ever see the light of day, let alone grace the cover of a book jacket, she made me feel like a million dollars.   

Melissa’s website boasts “Fun–Outdoor Photography”, and you know what?  She’s right.  It was fun. 

And now, it looks like that afternoon’s work is going to be put to use.  I still don’t want to release any of those details (no jinxing here), but I’ll just say that it looks like one of those photos will get a broader audience here pretty soon.

If you live near Seattle, check out Melissa’s website  And, if like me, you are in the midst of rejection and need a little boost, hire her to take pictures of you.  It worked for me.

Hello world!


I figured that I might as well get on the blog bandwagon, so here goes.  This blog is dedicated (for now, who knows how these things evolve!) to showcasing my husband’s success over a rare liver disease and the cancer that snaked its way into our lives.  John needed a liver transplant, but the cancer meant that he couldn’t get one.  Except, that is, for patients at Mayo Clinic.  Thanks to the awesome doctors and surgeons at Mayo, he just celebrated his second post-transplant anniversary cancer-free.  We have always been adventurers, spending our lives in the mountains, oceans and sky.  When he got sick, it was the lessons I learned in the world’s remote and treachorous places that helped me get through the darkest moments of the journey, most importantly to calm down and breathe.  My memoir, THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES, takes the reader through the year of his diagnosis, where I searched for salvation in the oddest places.  See the link to the first few chapters of the memoir, which is awaiting publication.  Also, leave comments and let me know how you have learned to cope with life’s turning points, both large and small.