Ski Washington Challenge - David's Diary

Blog documenting my progress on the Ski Washington Challenge

Monday, December 24, 2007

Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain was one area that I had a very disappointing visit to last season, when I made the trip too early in the year and found rain and rocks with only the lower mountain open. This year was the polar opposite - a perfect fresh powder dump, a brand new lift, and every chair running all day long. I started by attempting to cruise to the far right to score some powder, not realizing that I was needing to make it to a gated entrance. Visibility was poor for the first few runs, and I managed to end up in a depression, forced to hike out through thigh deep powder on my first run. I learned my lesson, and headed back to the base to start again.

This time, I headed to the top, riding the High Campbell chair to access the southern bowl, where I traversed to find incredible powder - and experienced my first true face-shots of powder. Plumes of the fine white stuff enveloped me as I turned cleanly down the face, and it was a most exhilarating feeling to be cutting fresh tracks on such a perfect slope, with the trees spaced just right, and the snow flying. Unfortunately the sheer volume of snow blocked the lens on my helmet cam, leaving me with no permanent record of the turns - but my memory is vivid.

After cruising Campbell, and a few laps in Green Valley, I made my way to the Northway traverse, and boot-packed up the ridge, only to find a helpful ski patroller at the top advising folks to cut back away from the north bowl, due to somewhat thin cover. She gave us the goods, and described the ideal line to take off the nose of the ridge, and down through some well spaced and untracked trees to the bottom. More powder turns in tighter trees, and then a convoluted runout led to the bottom of the chairlift, the new Northway double which was on its third day of operation.

A quick run back to the car (parked in the front row), and I was on the road again, headed south to Oregon, and half-way through the Washington challenge to boot.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mission Ridge

Mission Ridge was in pretty good shape today, and I was there to enjoy it from the start. I had the first spot in the parking lot, and scored first chair on the Liberator Express as well, marking the start of a very nice day indeed at Mission. Although it was a bit windy, the lifts kept turning well all day, and I split my time between the groomers, the powder along side them, and the steeps off the ridge. Cover was very thin along the ridge, probably due to phenomenally windy conditions, but I was at least able to hit my favorite powder run from last year off the top. There is an interesting phenomenon I observed, whereby the freshly fallen snow drifted into wave-like piles on top of the groomed slopes, creating a very odd effect when sliding over the intermittent powder and groom.

Mission Ridge is a large area, but the locals are friendly, and I struck up conversations with a number of folks on the lifts and in the lodge. Altogether, this was a great visit, and I was impressed by the customer service - when I was purchasing my ticket, the fellow at the window noted that I had a season pass from another mountain, and arranged a discounted ticket for me ($35). I didn't expect that at all, and it was a nice surprise to have some extra cash for lunch. Glad I did, because lunch was very tasty, and a pretty good deal to boot.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Bluewood was tons of fun on my last visit, and I was somewhat worried that their snowpack would limit my explorations this year. My fears were completely unfounded - I spent the day enjoying endless powder turns in the trees, with fresh snow falling most of the day, and only a moderate crowd. The snow in eastern Washington is especially dry, and the layout of Bluewood spreads the skiers out across the hill, sparing the powder from too much concentrated traffic. But the thing that makes the area truly unique and special is the epic tree skiing. Almost every bit of forest here is skiable, perfectly gladed for those who enjoy ripping it up in the woods. I found myself eschewing the groomed runs in favor of knee-deep powder in the forest. Finally, after hours of rapid laps, I called it a day and started on the road to Wenatchee - and was still dreaming of powder turns in the trees when I curled up in the car for the night.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mount Spokane

Another fine day for snowboarding in Washington today, and I found myself at Mount Spokane. Their usual $39 ticket was discounted to only $15, as they are running only chairs 3 and 4. However, the runs they opened were groomed very well, with only a few icy spots, and plenty of loose snow and corduroy on top to glide through. They even had some rails set in the terrain park, although as usual, I elected to use the ramps as jumps, and skip the rails themselves. By the early afternoon it began to snow, and I determined that I had made the best of the day, and packed up to hit the road for the long drive to Portland. With snow falling, it seemed prudent to get on my way before dark, so I am stopped at Starbucks charging the computer and drinking a Mocha. That about sums it up for this weekend, keep an eye out for photos and videos as I have the chance to put them together.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

49 Degrees North

My memories of Forty Nine Degrees North are vivid, and I recall a day of good visibility and groomers in the morning, followed by epic trees and powder in the afternoon. The weather did not follow last year's pattern, but it was a beautiful sunny day, and the groomers were certainly the place to be. Off the trails was a large frozen mass, although in spots there was blown powder to be poached - otherwise the best place to be was in the few spots that got some sunshine. Due to the season, and the orientation of the mountain, very little of the hill received any sunlight all day, despite the clear skies. Still, there was plenty of corduroy and even some loose dry powder, a reminder of the superiority of the snow in this region, and foreshadowing my return to the region later this month, when I will visit northern Idaho's ski areas.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mount Baker

Today marked my return to Mount Baker, a little more than a year since my last visit, and with a similar snowpack and familiar lift system I was cruising the mountain - so happily, in fact, that aside from a quick stop to replace a worn out toe binding bracket ($10 and 10 minutes), I made no stops for the whole day. I actually got a later start than I wanted; I slept in the car and did not hear my alarm, and by the time I pulled into the parking lot and made it into line, there was about a fifteen minute wait to get a ticket.

Of course, once I was on the lift, I remembered how much fun Baker is, especially when it is snowing. This was a great powder day at Baker, even though the base was light. There was fresh feather-light powder all day, and blankets of snow so broad that you could nab fresh tracks all morning. Even in the afternoon, the tracks were filling back in, and I finally had to quit when the only chair up was to the parking lot. I posted a video at youtube of a run from the top of Chair 1, taken with the helmet cam.

A great start to the Ski Washington Challenge for 2007-2008!