Tag Archives: Skiing Powder

Storm of the Century

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If you’re anything like me, when you find a weather forecast that you like, you stick with it. Tracking this week’s snow storms has been an exercise in finger-crossing. (And today was another stormy day with fresh tracks filling in each run.) Whenever the local news stations start catching phrases like, “Storm of the Century,” “Record-breaking Snow Headed This Way,” “Carry Emergency Supplies,” we all get a little nervous up here in the mountains.

We aren’t worried that we’ll get too much snow, or that the snowplows won’t be able to keep up. That rarely happens. We worry that all the hype will jinx it.

A Pacific storm track is much like an unmanned fire hose flopping like an inch worm on Redbull. It might point North, it might aim South, but we know we’re all going to get sprayed. Right now, the models favor the Southern Cascades for Wednesday. NWAC is calling for 1.5-2 inches of water in the form of snow at Crystal (which could be upwards of 24 inches) by Thursday morning at 4am. While the freezing level for the Central Cascades will stay very low, it will rise in the Southern Cascades, drawing a distinct boundary between the arctic air and the warm front bringing the moisture.

The forecast I’m sticking with (see below) says Crystal will stay cold but get the moisture. So far, the forecast is on track. See Crystal’s telemetry for the latest totals. And prepare for the onslaught. Wednesday could be the POWDER DAY OF THE CENTURY. But I hate to say I told you so.

Crystal's 5 Day Outlook

 

 

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Endless Winter

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Check out this photo taken this morning at the Summit House. Since closing on Sunday, two feet of snow has fallen at Crystal. It’s almost May, and we are still skiing powder. It’s the winter that never ends.

Photo by Michelle Longstreth

The railing seen in this photo (center, left) is attached to the third flight of stairs. That’s three stories of snow here people! Granted, much of that is shoveled and wind-blown, but I’ve never seen it like this. Even on the big year (I wonder, will we be calling this the big year someday?) this last flight of stairs into the Summit House never filled in like this.

Snow has the magical quality of covering over old scabs and wounds. Underneath this pile of snow could be dirt and rocks and any number of construction debris left over from the summer. There’s a reason we call it fresh snow. It freshens. It enlivens the landscape and ourselves. A blanket of snow revives the skiing and showers the soul. Just gazing at fresh snow makes me giddy. Skiing it is even better. Carving through fresh powder is like a million tiny fairies ushering my turns, kissing my legs, my neck, my face.

If you haven’t had enough skiing yet, there’s still time. It’s not too late. And while good powder turns are fleeting any time of the year, the last week of April they are even more ephemeral.

That’s why each turn, whether through powder, crud, corn or ice, should be savored. Every soul has a finite number of turns to be made in the snowfield of life. So make every one count.

Photo by Kim Kircher

Are Fat Skis Ruining Skiing?

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In skiing as in life, I want to be on the cutting edge.  I see those techy ski nerds with the helmet cams and large watches calculating vertical, air temperature, the weather forecast and the winning lotto numbers, and wish I could be one of them.  But, lets face it, I’m not.  Not usually anyway.

Last year, after a day shooshing around the ski area on a powder day on my K2 Pontoons, I had an aha! moment.  It was John, really, that sparked it.  Convinced that my skis were the reason my knees were so sore, he put forth the silly notion that fat skis were ruining skiing.

I scoffed.

Fat skis had revolutionized skiing.  And now he was saying they were ruining it?  Nonsense.

But he had a point.  In the past few years I’ve seen it too.  Gone are the days of crowded slopes on a sunny day.  No longer do skiers and boarders arrive at the mountain ready for all conditions.  Instead, they watch the forecast, check the NWAC observations, calculate the best possible box on their calendar for ensuring powder skiing.  The crowds only come for the powder.

And hey, who can blame them?  Powder rocks. I’d rather ski powder than

(Photo by Chris Morin)

anything else in the world.  (Well, almost anything.)

Some argue they wait for the powder days because of money.  Wanting to get the most bang for their buck, they save up their days like spendthrifts, metering out their joy like misers.  But I have a feeling it’s more about the width of one’s skis than the width of one’s wallet.  And since skiing is always a metaphor for life, this tip towards the extreme, like any binge, is swallowing up the fun.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like fat skis.  My quiver includes a pair of 179 Pontoons, which at 130mm underfoot are about as fat as it gets.

But if all you ski is Pontoons or Hellbents or anything else with 130mm underfoot, then most days at a ski area will not be fun.  Groomers hurt on fat skis.  Forget carving, that lovely hook-up of your edges that catapults you across the slope, allowing you to pick up speed and feel, if even momentarily, like a super hero.  Or at least that everything in the world is temporarily okay.

If you ski exclusively on fat skis, you have to go heli-skiing, or live at Snowbird and wait for the canyon to close while they blast the slopes, dipping your chin into your jacket and giggling at all the poor suckers waiting down below.

 

(Photo by Chris Morin)

But, let’s be real.  How often does that happen?

And skiing is all about fun, right?  At least in my book it is.  I want to propose a new concept.  In a world when extreme has come to define the most worthwhile aspects of the sport, I propose moderation.  Balance.  Zen.  Following the wu wei of skiing.

Instead of five different skis–one for every temp change and inch of accumulation, I propose finding a one quiver skis.  (Sorry ski shops).

I ski my K2 MissBehaveds in nearly all conditions.  Groomers to powder, these skis have been with me now for four seasons and we have an understanding.  Like any relationship, there’s some give and take.  When the pow gets really deep, I can’t ski quite as fast or feel quite as heroic as on the Pontoons.  But I like the compromise that knowing every morning, when I walk out of the patrol room, regardless of conditions, these trusty friends are with me.

Here We Go

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Giddy.  Happy.  Blessed.  Sometimes the weather gods shine on us.  I love the promise of new snow.  I love opening my front door, checking the snow stake I set out the day before and seeing 8 new inches of fluffy, light snow. Even after a week of winds that scoured the upper mountain and kept the lifts from running, still a storm can make me vibrate with pleasure.

This morning I am up early, headed out for avalanche control in Southback.  The winds are finally calm, the temperature has dropped, and the snow is falling straight down in delicate, cold flakes.

I will hike to the top of the King, my favorite place at Crystal.  We will break trail through wind-hardened snow, carrying our heavy explosives in our backpacks.

Overlooking Crystal Mountain just to the North, the King reigns over the Southback. It’s steep north face, the backdrop for freeride contests and ski movies, fills in with snow, making tight chutes skiable and timid girls heroic.  

I spread the ashes of Rocket, my late avalanche dog, on the top of the King.

It is a sacred place.

The weather forecast is calling for cold, snowy days this week.  It should snow all day today, picking up another foot of snow by tomorrow morning. Monday night into Tuesday looks like another good one.  I have Tuesday off, so I’ll be out there, ducking my chin into my collar and seeking out the fresh lines, each time the new snow filling in my old tracks like a trusted friend.