Surprise Surprise!! The northwest dominated the rest of us this season when it came to getting dumped on! Below are the recorded snowfalls for the 20 deepest stashes out there this season:
#1 – Alyeska, AK = 962”
#2 – Mt. Baker, WA = 800″
#3 – Crystal Mountain, WA = 587″
#4 – White Pass, WA = 575″
#5 - Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, OR = 564″
#5 – Stevens Pass, WA = 564″
#6 - Mt. Hood Meadows, OR = 550″
#7 - Whistler, B.C. = 547″
#8 - Mt. Seymour, B.C. = 545″
#9 – Alpental, WA = 533″
#10 - Mt. Bachelor, OR = 515”
#11 - Fernie, B.C. = 450”
#12 - Revelstoke, B.C. = 442”
#13 - Grand Targhee, WY = 420”
#14 - Sunshine Village, Canada = 406”
#15 - Alpine Meadows, CA = 393″
#16 - Wolf Creek, CO = 390”
#16 - Alta, UT = 390″
#17- Whitewater, B.C. = 386”
#18 – Sugar Bowl, CA = 374″
#19 - Jackson Hole, WY = 373″
#20 - Squaw Valley, CA = 355
The “Snow-Be” is an avalanche beacon for the financially strapped, complete with a trasmit mode, but no search mode! Click here to read the article!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!…
5am, and my alarm clock is screaming at me. That obnoxious, welching noise that has an awesome way of subconsciously making you think “No..not yet…” Yet…today, I don’t mind at all. I’m not heading to work today. No, I have no chores that I’m taking care of…no responsiblity of any kind on my mind today. The only thing that can get me out of bed at 5am…the only thing that can get me out of bed on the first try, has got to be skiing. Today’s the day that I’m skiing Quandary Peak, one of Colorado’s 54 mountains that stand over 14,000′ tall.
The day started off at a slow pace. Although excited…come on now, its still 5am. However repetition makes perfect and this isn’t my first rodeo waking up for a day of skiing. Within a few minutes my bag is packed, skis are tied on, teeth brushed and we’re out the door.
There’s nothing that makes you feel like you’re going on an expedition more than waking up before the sun comes up to begin your adventure. Everybody is still asleep. The moon is still shining. And anybody but a few has called you crazy for the last week for even thinking of opening eye before the sun hits the horizon on a day that the bossman isn’t breathing down your back. Yet, here you are driving down the highway sipping your coffee and munching on a donut that you bought a couple miles back at the gas station. Happy as could be. Excited.
Well, that early morning departure does a great job at giving you a false sense of security every time, and after a bathroom stop here, a McDonald’s stop there, and a couple times pulling off the side of the road for a picture or two, your 7am arrival at the trailhead has now become 8. But who cares. Like we said, we’re not trying to feel responsible today.
By 8:30 we’ve got everything secured where we want it. The skis and ski boots, and any other accessories I’ve decided to bring have been checked and strapped to my pack, and its time to start the almost 4 mile trek up the mountain to the summit. The plan is to hike the east ridge trail, which starts off a few hundred feet below treeline, and works its way up the mountain. It seems like the least exhausting route with all this weight on my back, plus, it should give me a good view of some of the more northern facing bowls which I hope to still be holding some snow, being hidden a small bit by the direct sunlight.
By the time we get 45 minutes to an hour into our climb we’re sitting down to grab a drink and rethink the clothing situation. By this point we were above (and I say “we”, meaning the dog and I) treeline and the wind was picking up. Up to this point a simple pair of pants and sunglasses would have been enough but we took advantage of using a few last trees for cover and tossed on the snowpants and winter hat and up we went.
About another 30 minutes up the trail you start to come to the base of the false peak (which, did in fact fool me). I can’t tell you the thoughts going through my head about how in shape I must be… “I can’t believe how fast I had just climbed this!” (A quick look at a map could have also told me) I was thinking that I’ve climbed this mountain so quickly that I’m gonna get to ski 3 more mountains on the ride home! But, if it seems too good to be true it usually is too good to be true and as I climbed I quickly started finding out that there was much, much more to this mountain.
As the trip up the mountain went on the nice soft alpine grasses slowly begin to thin out and work their way into the loose gravel and scree beds covering the top of the mountain. …a trail mix stop here, a picture break there, and plenty of catch-my-breath breaks shoved somewhere in between there are a pretty accurate way to sum up the remainder of the accent from here. The last hour of the trip is completely above any tree or vegetation levels, which makes it really uncomfortable and difficult to climb. This day had it’s fair share of gusts at certain points of the mountain and it takes a lot out of you trying to balance your body up these rocks while your skis try and sail you back south to the bottom. As you can see in the picture above, we weren’t the only ones peak bagging this morning and for a solid 10 minutes we were visited side by side with Mr. Billygoat up there.
But sure enough, 3.5 hours later you realize why you’ve put yourself through the exhaustion and discomfort for the last 4 miles. The views on top are amazing. You’re the tallest mountain around. You can see Pike’s Peak from here…the Mosquito Range, Holy Cross…and if you squint you can even see the semi-snow-covered trails on the south sides of A-Basin and Keystone.
You feel your moment of pride, snap some pictures, sit down, and before you know if you’ve been sitting down for 30 minutes on a rock, are half full of dried bananas and cashews, and your fingers are going numb. This is usually the point where I decide its a good idea to get moving, and switch over to my ski boots before I become a permanent part of the mountain.
After a few minutes of switching over footwear and breathing on my fingers to defrost them, it’s finally time to pick up my poles and work my way to the edge. This time of year is tricky to pick your lines. You’re not worrying about avalanches and cliffs so much, as you are simply running out of snow! You can be skiing a great line and all of a sudden 20 feet ahead of you you’re on the rocks. So, I reach back in my memory of what the mountain looked like when I was climbing up, and decide from there. Skier’s left seemed like the way to go this time, and off we went!!
The snow on top was hard and crusty. I’d try and stop and all I would get was the chitter chatter of my skis slapping on the uneven ice below me. I worked my way through the first 100 or 200 feet of elevation, in and out of rock fields, and then, it was like the seas had parted and we were off! Nice, soft, loose snow that had been baking in the sun all morning. The winds and shade hadn’t affected this section and it was like a video game. Twisting and turning around the obstacles, hearing the wind blow through your ears as I gained speed down the mountain…and, of course…the barking of a 2 year old yellow lab chasing me down the mountain, letting me know not to forget him behind me.
Looking up at our first snowfield you can see where we started at skier’s left and worked our way side to side before spilling out in an open bowl.
Section by section, we took our time enjoying the scenery and skiing to the next stop point. A second lunch, some pats on the head for Ranger, and almost too soon the climb that we had spent all morning doing was coming to an end.
We made our way down to the bottom of the last bowl just as the evening storm was blowing in. And just like that, our time skiing on Quandary Peak was a memory. I skipped myself across a couple grass fields towards the bottom, hopping from snow pile to snow pile to try and lessen my walk back through treeline as much as I could, until eventually all that lie between me, the dog, and the car was a beaten dirt path through the woods.
Its at this point that you feel fully satisfied about your decision to ski. You no longer think about the tiring and exhausting hike to the summit. You’re not worrying about the two hour drive back home, or that you took this morning. You want a beer and a pizza, and that sounds delicious. You’re proud that you’ve accomplished something that most people only think about doing, or that others think you’re crazy for doing. With my hiking boots back on, and my skis strapped once again to my pack, I throw a stick down the trail and follow the yellow lab through the woods and back to the car. One more 14er down, many more to go.
I’ve spent the greater part of my life attached to some kind of plank on my feet. Powder, rocks, steeps, traverse…the almighty slackcountry…I’ve ski’d a lot, but I’ve yet to ski a 14er. …Until this past Friday.
A month ago we set the date, over a drunken conversation leaning halfway over a Golden, Colorado bar. Underprepared for this trip, we wouldn’t be bringing any fancy crampons with us. No climbing axes. No real plans at all….infact, the plan was to BE as uncomfortable as possible! Start this thing off the hard way and we’ll start making each trip easier on ourselves from there on after.
So, as we promised that night at the bar, we held true to our words and met a few weeks later at 6am ready for whatever the day would throw at us. Mt Evans, was the plan. 14,264 feet above sea level, and a 45 minute drive from our hometown of Golden. I’d searched the routes and how to get to the required trailhead. Kept up on the avalanche reports, watched the weather. Estimated travel time once on the mountain, and what conditions we could be expecting once we dropped pole on the snow… Little did we realize we wouldn’t be skiing Evans.
Incase anybody else gets the idea during the winter to use the Summit Lake Trailhead. Guess what. NOT HAPPENIN! Its closed. Yup. A whole month’s worth of excitement and anxiousness brought to halt with a huge metal gate crossing the road. Now, you’re probably thinking “duh”. I guess, and I suppose you’re right. But, this is Colorado! I fully expected a “Pass At Your Own Risk” sign in it’s place.
Believe it or not, we still tried. If you can picture two dummies running around outside in the cold and the wind, trying to determine a 4 wheeling path AROUND the gate, that was us. And as much as it reminded me of my teenage years, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of the trouble we COULD get in if anybody had seen us off roading around the gate just so we could continue our journey. Eventually, unlike the teenage years, the common sense portion of my brain won the battle, and we decided that it wasn’t going to be for us today.
However not far away from us was another hike I’d been reading about. Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks. Both 14ers, and connected by a single saddle. Lets do it! 2 peaks, one trip, and I KNOW we can access them this time of year. So we turned the truck around and had at it.
Turned out the old truck didn’t do too bad! Within minutes of starting our hike we were at the obvious trailhead and starting our way to the mountain.
The hike ended up being brutal. I’ve had my fair share of poor weather both on the slopes, and in the backcountry, and this by far was a lift-closing type of day. The weather channel was reporting gusts of over 80 mph! The pictures may look calm and peaceful. But I can assure you that if I could attach a soundtrack to this it would be loaded with howling winds and 2 screaming backcountry folk trying to hear one another speak.
The hike to the top of the bowl we were looking for took us 6 hours. We were cold, and exhausted, and halfway defeated. The original idea was to climb Gray’s, then Torrey’s, and ski down Torrey’s. We never even made the summit of Grays. Two different times the wind was so strong and abrupt that I had gotten knocked clean off my feet. 6 hours of walking forward 10 feet, being blown back 2, and holding a head-down, aggressive stance for another 15 seconds as the wind tries it’s hardest to blow us off the mountain. Let the gust die down, and repeat again. I had brought plenty of food for the day, and I was still exhausted and weak. At the rate we were going, with maybe 600 feet of vertical left to the summit, we finally had to make the decision to turn around. It was 3:00 by now. With the rate we were able to climb, we were still another hour away from the summit. And, with the way the climb up was, if we have to hike a fair distance back to the truck, this is starting to look like an all nighter.
A couple hundred feet below us we had left our skis. There was no skiing to be done where we were headed if we summited, seeing how it was all blown off, so we left the weight behind. We made it back to our skis, crossed our final rock patch, and started to strap in.
The biggest fear I always have when backcountry skiing is watching my ski go plummeting to the bottom of the mountain…WITHOUT me attached to it. When we finally started strapping in this was all I could picture. My fingers are frozen, and I’m going to drop this ski. The wind was howling and every move I made was slippery and uncoordinated. Yet, finally, one after the other, I was able to make my little ski shelf, strap a boot into it’s binding, and the best feeling of it all….clip that leash onto my boot.
The moment we had both waited for came at us just like that. My partner took a look over at me and let me know, “I’m nervous”…haha. I made sure to laugh back reassuringly and let him know, “I’m excited…” And just like that we were gone! Parker first, me second. There’s a whole new ballgame that you’re a part of when you’re backcountry skiing. Nobody designed this terrain. No machine came over last night and made it nice and smooth for you. There’s no even base to assure you make steady, even turns. If there IS powder, there’s no telling what could be hiding underneath it. Everything is natural. The way it’s been for thousands of years.
The first couple turns were shaky, feeling out the snowpack under my feet. But by turn 3 that was it. I had it. The flow of the mountain, the weightlessness…leaning into every turn and feeling the whip of your skis as you change your footing underneath you. This is why we do it. This is the only thing that can get me 6 hours away from my car in the miserable weather below a 14,000 foot peak. The rush of cruising down a mountain and hearing the snow cut to the sides as you slice through it. The wind blowing past your ears as you pick up your speed. Huge rock walls all around you and open high country meadows 3,000 feet blow you…We were backcountry skiing.
One by one we took our turns down the mountain. Stopping in safety spots as the other passed and waiting for our turns to tear up the ground he just got to devirginize. Its funny how you can tell yourself to go home for half a day, yet after 5 minutes of an experience like this, you can forget about ALL of that, and your day just became worth it.
With the wind behind us and fresh tracks left behind, it seemed as if the whole day had changed. No longer did we feel the wind blowing around us. I didn’t hear any howling gusts, and my body seemed to warm back up to where it was when I rolled out of bed that morning. The clouds all seemed to part and the only thing that you could feel anymore was accomplishment and peacefulness. We took the frozen drainage back to the truck. A half hour of smooth sailing, slowly feeling the snow loosen to that spring corn texture as we continued to drop in elevation. A couple times I hit the shallow spots in the snow over the stream and poked through, looking down at the water running around my now semi-submerged ski boot…but at this point it only added to the fun of the day.
Freeskier Sarah Burke was remembered last night at an event held in Whistler, BC. The late professional skier was involved in a half pipe skiing accident that ruptured an artery to her brain, cutting off blood flow and oxygen and later taking her life
Her husband, Rory Bushfield took the stage thanking Sarah for her kindness and influence she’s had on his life. “You are my angel,” as he described her.
Sarah was known for pushing the limits of the women’s freestyle ski world. She touched the lives of everybody she met with her caring generosity and passion for the sport.
Father, Gord Burke, made his speech in an old torn up green t-shirt. He explained to the crowd the story of the shirt, how it was from the first time Burke had ever been to Momentum Ski Camp in Whistler. Gord gave Sarah some money to remember the trip by, and in return spent the money on a green t-shirt for him. A little worn out at this point, it was a gift he’s held onto for 15 years now.
Known by her roaring crowds for her passion and competitive nature, the star was remembered during a private ceremony in the Blackcomb superpipe with a “moment of noise”, instead of a moment of silence. 3 flyby helicopters marked the tribute.
“It was never my goal to be recognized. I love the sport, I love doing it and I want as many girls as possible to do it too. That has always been my goal.”
The snow’s not falling very much lately, but that doesn’t mean there’s not still plenty of skiing and riding to be done! Arapahoe Basin, located just under and hour outside of 75 degree sunny Denver, is still holding their own despite this horrible season.
I can’t say that I was expecting much heading up to Summit County, especially after last month’s heartbreak when I decided to spend the day searching for any last morsels of pow at Keystone. We’ll keep it short: Groomers and gravel.
I pulled up to the beach and I wasn’t expecting any killer drops on the east wall. No tree runs or hucking cliffs in the Montezuma Bowl…in fact, I wasn’t even expecting access to be open for the Montezuma. And of course, I was right. But what I WAS expecting was nice, soft corn turns on a blue bird sunny colorado day, and I couldn’t have gotten any better conditions delivered straight to me.
Sitting in the parking lot I scrambled through my bag of goodies out of my Northface backpack and decided, “Liners or full gloved…puffy, or flannel..” and eventually decided to ditch it all for the tshirt and outer shell. It was too nice not to. We worked our way up to the non-existent lift lines and took our first run headed straight to Ramrod.
I’d been DYING to get my skis on! And now was my time. I pointed my faithful ski partner (Kellie, fiance), in the right direction and we were gone!! Warm 50 degree air in my face, nice deep edging, a little pop here and there and it was a race to the bottom! Man, had I been waiting for a moment like that for far too long. Wizzing past trees, in and out of side trails, past the sideline spectators, the jibbers, the moms, the dads, the little kids with their leashes on so they don’t Jeff Gordon down the hill with their teachers faithfully guiding their turns down the hill…I needed that.
At the bottom I was eventually met by my skiing comrade with smiles all over. The feeling of rushing down a mountain on top of a sheet of frozen water can do something to you that very little things in life have the power to do. The day continued with more runs, more bloody marys, and the best attempt we could make to improve our goggle tans for the days to follow.
The days of sinking to our waists in 3 feet of powder may be over for the season, but that still doesn’t mean we’re hanging our planks up for the year just yet.
It looks like after 21 years of debating with the British Columbia government, Jumbo Glacier is about to become British Columbia’s newest ski resort. 23 lifts, 600 housing units, and $950 million dollars down the road it looks like its going to be home to 750 new jobs and another place for us all to get our skis wet 365 days a year! Click the link below to read the article:
The resort is reporting on their website, JumboGlacierResort.com, that 5,627 feet 100% natural snow verticle will be available for skiing/riding in the winter. In summer, up to 2,300ft of natural snow vertical will be available on the glaciers
Along with a GREAT amount of verticle, the mountain resort will be located outside of the Pacific Northwest’s wet climate, lying shortly west of Invermere, British Columbia, which translates so BLUEBIRD SKIING!
Well, aint that sweet! Breckenridge is going to be extending their season this year. (Probably due to the extreme lack of business this winter). Along with being able to ski further into the spring this year, the mountain is also offering:
They said they’re granting everybody the wish they asked for, in celebration of their 50 year anniversary this year! (I still think they’re REALLY trying to make up for a lack of sales), but HEY! Lets keep on keeepin on everybody!! I’ll take it!!
Sick of getting pumped for your vacation in the mountains with your friends/family, and ruining it with your celebratory pitchers? Altitude, alcohol, poor eating, and lack of sleep can all be dangerous hazards if pushed to their limits while on the slopes. Heres a few tips that skinet posted to help lessen the hurt!!
aaand heres one more, just because we all love watching powder. and notice, 18 seconds in…is he skiing pow under and EMPTY (yet moving) chairlift? must be some kind of dream…