Ski Washington Challenge - David's Diary

Blog documenting my progress on the Ski Washington Challenge

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Summit at Snoqualmie

My trip to The Summit at Snoqualmie turned out to be well-timed, as I found fresh powder in abundance. I started from Summit Central, where I did a few laps off the ridge through the deep powder off the trails. I rode the Triple 60 chair for a few laps of fluff, then braved the lift line at the Central Express for a quick ride to scope the terrain park. I rode the powder along the rope line, carving deep turns right down the hill as I watched the locals enjoying the ample jibbing opportunities provided in "Central Park".

Not being a big fan of rail riding, I moved on to the east part of Summit Central, and a triple chair that serves some of the finest slopes at the Summit. I did a few laps in the area before curiosity got the best of me and I took the "I-90" crossover to Summit East. It turns out that you need a very large amount of speed for this trail, or you can plan on some skating - and there is no warning sign, so consider this your final notice.

After making the long trek to Summit East, I found a double chair with some crowding issues, and only did a few laps before beginning the trek back to Central. Having tired of the lines at Summit East, I checked the time, and realized I should get to Alpental while I still could do a couple of laps on the Edelweiss chair. I rode the crossover back (again, long flat trail) to Central, took the lift to the top and then rode straight down to the bottom to catch the shuttle.

After arriving at Alpental, I took a ride up Armstrong to find that the Edelweiss chair had a twenty minute line. I elected to do a few laps on the lower mountain before getting in line. The lower mountain was in pretty good shape for the afternoon, but soon I had the urge to get to the top, so I made my way into line and began the slow waddle toward the summit.

Twenty minutes later I was whisked away up the hill, into clouds that were just starting to break up. My timing was very good as the weather finally broke in time for me to enjoy a couple of runs. I took my first around the ridge and down a chute on the Edelweiss side, and then took the plunge on Upper International for my second run.

I had never had the chance to ride the back part of Alpental, and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of space and the quality of the terrain. I made quick work of the bowl, and then skirted my way through powder to the area known as Snake Dance. Here the trail runs into a gladed area of steep trees, where the snow had held up very well through the day, and I found plenty of fresh lines through the trees. I remembered Alpental as a special place, and this visit only reinforced my memory.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

White Pass

Today I made my way to White Pass, and was rewarded with an easy drive, followed by fresh snow all day long. The cold temperatures over the last week kept the slopes in very good condition, and with fresh snow falling, it was a great day to be riding. I spent the morning checking out all the groomers, and then ran into some folks from Mountain High around noon.

I did a couple of laps with my club-mates, and they showed me some runs I had not yet discovered, which led me into new territory for the afternoon. I really came to appreciate the relative lack of crowds, and found plenty of fresh tracks all day due to the ongoing snowfall.

Last year a number of runs were closed due to lack of coverage when I arrived, and some were off-limits due to deep powder. The base was much more mature on this visit, and the mountain was 100% open. I had a chance to explore the cliff areas that were closed on my last visit, as well as some of the outer runs off Holiday that were too deep to ride when I came to White Pass last year.

This is a great little ski area, with the advantage of being farther from major cities than most others in the cascades, which keeps the crowds in check. I found challenge in the mogul fields and trees, and enjoyed the very well groomed cruisers and packed powder off-piste. It was a great day to be at White Pass.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stevens Pass

It turned out to be a beautiful day at Stevens Pass today, partially overcast, but with excellent visibility. There was a nice dusting of fresh snow overnight, and all the lifts were running today, so I made a break for the backside to explore the runs that were off-limits on my last visit.

The backside of the ridge at Stevens provides a great sustained pitch, and has huge potential on powder days. There were still many choice lines to be turned, but there was also a fair amount of crusty/icy snow, which made for a less-than-perfect day off piste. Nevertheless, I made a number of laps on the backside, exploring the trees and hunting for powder stashes.

Once I was warmed up, I decided to check out some of the "Double Diamond" territory on the front side of the ridge. Signs clearly indicate that this is expert terrain, with unmarked cliffs and other obstacles - consider yourself warned. The terrain is extremely steep, and heavily forested, but there were plenty of small clearings and powder shots in the trees, so I did a few laps here as well. I would advise anyone exploring this area for the first time to proceed very slowly, or take a local as a guide.

There were fresh tracks to be had in the Double Diamond area all afternoon, and no crowds, but eventually I had the urge to see how the front side was doing, and made my way down to the base area for some less extreme riding. The grooming was very good, and even late into the afternoon I found untracked corduroy along the edges of the trails.

Finally my legs started to remind me of the time, and I packed it in so I could make the drive back to Portland before the Seattle-bound crowd made the road too slow. The drive into town went quite smoothly, so I stopped to post my blog from the Trabant Chai Lounge in the University district. This has become my regular blog and coffee stop since I learned last season that it was founded by a high school classmate - and it has been repeatedly voted the best coffee shop in Seattle, too.

The Ski Area list is growing shorter week by week, and I foresee only two more weekends before I complete my planned itinerary for Washington. Stay tuned for updates as I wrap up another Ski Challenge for 2008.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hurricane Ridge

Today was a snow day at Hurricane Ridge, but I missed by just a little on the timing. It appears that the Poma lift will not be open until tomorrow - so once again I spent the day on the rope tow. Hearsay indicated that today was inspection day for the Poma lift - but I wasn't really waiting for it to open anyway. The rope tow provided me a good workout, and there was fresh snow all day.

Hurricane Ridge is a small hill, but the real action is the backcountry. There is a great deal of terrain available along the ridge for those willing to hike back to the top, and the tracks of skiers and boarders were very visible. I was not in the mood for that much activity, still recovering from my Idaho marathon, and contemplating the resources needed to fully exploit Stevens Pass tomorrow.

Still, this is a great hill for cruising, and by noon most folks are worn out from the tow, so the line is gone and you can do laps until you drop. I made it to about 1:30 before my hands called it a day. On to another hill...