Ski Washington Challenge - David's Diary

Blog documenting my progress on the Ski Washington Challenge

Monday, November 27, 2006

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass Lift Ticket
The final stop on my Thanksgiving weekend was Stevens Pass. I started out Sunday morning from Wenatchee after a hearty breakfast of french toast and bacon, with the whole staff of the Red Lion cheering me on. There was fresh snow on the ground in Wenatchee, with more coming down, so I knew it would be a slow drive to the mountain. By the time I got to Leavenworth, it was clearly time to put on my chains, which I did at a convenient bus stop turnout. A few moments later, I was rumbling up highway 2 on my way to the pass. After a good twenty miles or more, the familiar thump of a broken chain interrupted the otherwise pleasant drive. I pulled over at the first safe shoulder to secure the loose ends so I could limp to a better spot for swapping out the broken chain. Thankfully I was carrying a spare chain, so I just pulled the broken one off, and replaced it. It's nice to be prepared.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, and I pulled into the parking lot just a few minutes after nine. Made my way to the ticket window, and decided to hit the fresh immediately - I didn't even stop to lace up my boots, just stuffed the laces inside, yanked on the velcro and strapped in. It was a great powder day at Stevens, and from what I gathered, Sunday was the best day they had all weekend. Lucky me! After the first run, I made a quick stop to grab a mocha and lace up my boots, and headed back to the powder. The express quads started to get a little busy, so after a few runs on that side, I moved up the hill to the Tye Mill triple lift for a few runs, and then switched over to Big Chief, a fixed double that had huge untouched powder chutes running down to the bottom.

I was getting some great exercise with all the deep powder, and decided to see what I could find on top - the lift called Seventh Heaven accesses the steepest terrain that was open - all double diamonds from the summit of Cowboy Mountain. The chutes were a bit rocky on the lift side of the hill, and required a climb, so I stayed on the Rock Garden side, enjoying Little Tree and Cloud Nine, where the snow was deep, and even though it was not untouched, the steepness of the runs kept most folks away, and left plenty of awesome dry powder to ride on (and through). I kept circulating around to all the lifts, even taking a run through the terrain park, before finally calling it a day around 3pm, and retiring to the lounge for a pulled pork sandwich and a brew - Stevens Pass Amber. Neat how the Washington resorts seem to have house brews.

The drive back was easy going down from the pass, and I had my chains off in just a few miles. The traffic was moving well all the way to Monroe, where the weather suddenly turned very nasty, with heavy, wet snow dumping all over the place. Highway 2 was a mess from Monroe to Everett, and Interstate 5 was moving at 15-20 mph due to the heavy snow on the road. I heard on the radio that a few miles north, chains were required on Interstate 5! Thankfully I was heading south, and by the time I hit Seattle, the snow had lightened up, and speeds were back to normal for the remainder of the drive to Portland. I was tired, and a little sore, but it was most certainly worth it. What a fantastic way to spend a long weekend!

Oh, yes, the obligatory photos:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mission Ridge

Mission Ridge Lift Ticket
My original plan was admittedly a little crazy - I had thought I would drive to 49ยบ North and then back to Stevens Pass. Given the heavy snowfall in the mountains, I changed my plan, and it worked out well. A kind fellow on the lift at White Pass suggested that I visit Mission Ridge today. I was a little skeptical, because 85% of their runs were closed on Friday - but they opened up a whole lot more, and most of the hill was accesible today. I had a great time. This has to be one of the best hills around - 2,250 feet of vertical, all downhill, 60% intermediate and 30% expert. Fantastic!

The coverage was pretty good for November, and even a few double black diamonds were open for my enjoyment. I made it to every open run again today, and had a great time cutting fresh tracks - most of the runs were open today for the first time this season. The hill is serviced by one express quad, which you get to by riding a fixed double. The "Liberator Express" then takes you straight to the top in no time at all. Food was good too - they even have their own brews!

I had a great time at Mission Ridge, and I heartily recommend a stop here if you are ever in the Wenatchee area. It was a bit windy (so much so they had to briefly stop running the express quad), so be prepared. Here are some images for your edification...

Friday, November 24, 2006

White Pass

White Pass Lift Ticket
Started my Friday early, with a 3:30 alarm. Yesterday I spent the day at Timberline, where the powder was deep, and the lack of steep was notable. White Pass does not have this problem. It was a huge powder day, with more than a foot of fresh, and more coming down. It was also opening day, so the freshies - well, they don't get much fresher. I found myself sailing on powder, then sinking into huge snow drifts as tall as me. Once I learned my way around the hill, I was happily cruising every (open) run on the map. This is a great little hill, with all varieties of terrain, from long meandering trails to cliffs and super-steeps. The cliffs were all closed due to light cover, but the front side was all open, and the blacks there were succulent.

This was a great powder day, no doubt about it, and made me long for a powder board. My narrow little 159 just doesn't cut it when the powder is head high! All morning, there were dozens of folks visible from the lift trying to dig themselves out of deep powder holes. It was great exercise, and I learned about the limits of the set-up I am using. I also learned how to use the board as a sled to extricate myself from four foot drifts. It was altogether an awesome day, and I was glad I got up at 3:30 - it meant I was on the first round of chairs, and got some true freshies before any tracks had been laid. And even though the single express quad had a line for much of the morning, the powder was giving me such a workout that I actually enjoyed the extra chance to catch my breath.

White Pass is a tidy little hill serviced by four chairs, of which two were running today. Both the fixed doubles were idle, which was a shame, but understandable. The paradise chair would have been my place to run laps. Too bad the paradise cliff was closed, too - it looked like a heck of a fun run when the cover sets up.

I will have photos to add soon - but dinner is here, so first thing's first.

Here are some photos of the lodge and me enjoying epic powder:

Monday, November 20, 2006

Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain Lift Ticket
Yesterday I made my way to Crystal Mountain. After some coffee in Bellingham, I drove a few hours to Seattle, and stopped at the Trabant Chai Lounge to visit the owner, a friend of mine from back in high school. More coffee, and a bite to eat, and I was back on the road to Crystal Mountain. I found a nice little parking spot around 12:30 and made camp for the night (in the car).

Crystal itself is beautiful, nestled in a steep and deep valley, with a good variety of terrain. Unfortunately, the snow was still a bit thin, and there were rocks poking through in plenty of places. Nonetheless, there was a healthy base, and both express six pack lifts were running. I took a ride up Chinook to survey the lay of the land, and followed the very light crowd down the hill. Nice easy runs, good for cruising, though a little sticky from the rain. Yes, it was raining on the lower part of the hill most of the day, which had me so soaked I had to change at lunch time into a dry set of clothing. Time for a new jacket - mine has been tested, and it is not waterproof. The pants were great, though - North Face rocks.

I did manage to find my way over to the Forest Queen, and there were some blue runs, with some that were black on the map, but not really so bad. The most interesting was a run with 'caution' markings from the Chinook lift. It was a traverse to get to a steeper section of the lower mountain, and about two hundred yards from the lift, there were 2 seperate creeks. So, did I stop and go back? Of course not! This was an interesting and new challenge for me. I climbed up the hill a little bit so I could get some speed, and then slid as fast as I could on the sticky snow. A jump right off the edge - and I did a face-plant on the far side of the first creek. Cleared the water, but I was going so slow there was no chance to stay upright and make the jump. For the second creek, I managed to get a bit more speed, and the satisfaction of jumping that creek and staying upright was thrilling. I slid away with that "I'm on top of the world" feeling. Who needs a terrain park anyway?

Here I am enjoying a snow flurry at the top of the Forest Queen lift.

And this is a view of one of the small bodies of water just beginning to freeze over. Good reason not to cross the rope lines.

A video of the view from the top of the Forest Queen

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mount Baker

Mount Baker Lift Ticket

Just returned to Bellingham from my Mount Baker visit today. Nice little area, spread over the face of two peaks along a ridge, with abundant fixed lifts to carry you from point to point. Two of note: the chair that carries folks from two different loading stations, going in opposite directions to the top of the same ridge mid-lift, and one that shares a pole with another - one on top of the other.

The snow was wet, and a little sticky, but the coverage was actually quite good. Needless to say I had a great time learning my way around the lift system, and cruising as many runs as I could muster ( I even did part of one run in the 'Natural Halfpipe').

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Prelude to a Challenge

Well, the snow finally has begun to accumulate on the mountains of Washington State. Beginnning this weekend, the challenge is on. In case you don't know me, my name is David Schor, and I'm a snowaholic. I became an avid snowboarder over the course of the amazing 2005-2006 season in Oregon, and was the first person to finish the inaugural Ski Oregon Challenge. Not being one to repeat myself, I am moving northward to take a stab at the inaugural Ski Washington Challenge. The challenge? To ski or snowboard ten of the fourteen ski areas in Washington in one season. Last year, I boarded all eleven ski areas on the Oregon Challenge, completing the circuit on February 19th. This year, I plan to get an early start on the Washington areas, and the huge snow dump this week will help me get a jump on the circuit.

This weekend, I plan to make the trek to Mount Baker and Crystal Mountain, Washington to begin what will be, at minimum, a ten resort circuit to complete the challenge. Depending on my mood and finances, I may expand my horizons to take in the four additional areas on the Ski Washington list, but for the time being, I am focused on completing the basic challenge. Two of the fourteen (Powder Cats and Heli-skiing) are prohibitively expensive, and may be outside my budget for this year. We shall see. I am doing my best to minimize the costs of completing the challenge by sleeping in my Honda Civic (something which I have some experience with), and visiting two resorts per weekend, in order to reduce travel.

I will make an effort to keep this blog up-to-date with my progress. Look for an update after this weekend's excursion - I may even post pictures..