Monday, November 29, 2010

Day #2 - Mount Baker

I was pretty hesitant to get back up to Baker after seeing how tracked out it was at the end of opening day; riding without some significant snowfall to fill in the bare spots was very unappealing. Thankfully Thanksgiving week brought freezing temperatures and precipitation to the Pacific Northwest, even to the lowlands down into the city.

Before I go into my trip report, I’d like to briefly review the snow we got down in the city. For those readers who aren’t from the Seattle area, you might assume that most Seattleites are pretty competent when it comes to driving in the snow since we’re so close to the mountains. That is so far from true it’s comical. The average driver, and unfortunately those responsible for keeping the roads drivable when winter weather hits, reacts to snow like they're from Southern California and have never seen a snowflake in their lives. Drivers abandon their cars on the side of the freeway, cars start sliding all over the place and the highways becomes a parking lot. I was tasked with picking up my little sister at the airport the Monday night before Thanksgiving -- the night the “big” storm hit. Flakes started falling lightly earlier in the morning, but it didn’t get really bad until the afternoon when everyone got off work. This made for a usually bad commute in Seattle epically unbearable. My sister’s flight was delayed from nine to midnight, and even at that hour, both northbound and southbound lanes of I-5 were completely shut down from road conditions. People were walking away from their abandoned cars, it was an unbelievable sight to see. To make a long story short, it took me over two hours to get from the U-District to the airport (roughly 15 miles) and we didn’t arrive back at my house in Everett until 3AM, four hours round trip.

Enough about traffic, back to the trip report. Baker got the significant amount of snow I desired so I decided to make my second trip up on Saturday. The day didn’t start out ideal, foggy conditions and an extremely icy HWY-9 made for a very treacherous trip up to the mountain. Soon enough, the fog and clouds broke to a clear blue sky as we arrived at the lower lodge at Mount Baker. Shuksan was again out for all to see against the clear dark blue morning sky, just as it was the Saturday before.

Snow conditions were optimal for so early in the season. I brought up my new all-mountain setup (Never Summer SL w/ Rome Targa bindings), hoping that the snow wouldn’t be too low and I’d have to worry about taking a rock to the base of my new board. Seven inches of fresh snow overnight helped fill a lot of tracked out runs, but there were still some areas that didn’t have complete coverage. As a result, I tamed down my riding a bit in order to preserve the fresh base of my new board.

JK, SN (shameless plug for her blog:, and I spent the first half of the day lapping Chair 8. Conditions were good off the groomers, but started to get pretty tracked by lunchtime. After lunch JK decided we needed to “turn up the volume” as we made our way over to the west side of the mountain to do a few laps on Chair 6 off Pan Dome.

We ended the day out on Chair 8 again as the clouds started rolling in. By this time SN was completely spent, almost unable to stay upright. She was quite the trooper though, keeping up with JK and I all day as we “turned up the volume.” I know for a fact she is cursing us right now, unable to hardly walk.

All in all, it was a great day. My new snowboard setup performed admirably (stay tuned for a first-look review in a day or so), JK enjoyed his new skis and I know SN, although pretty beat up by the end of the day, thoroughly enjoyed her day with the boys.

Me enjoying my time on the mountain.

Heading up Chair 8 for our first run of the day.

Shuksan, again.

SN giving me the "are you kidding me" look.

SN had a lot of snow on her pants so JK decided her help her out.

JK and SN on the last run of the day.

Me loving Baker.

Usually snow is supposed to stay outside of your snow pants.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mount Baker Opening Day 2010

After months of suffering through warm weather, I finally got what I wanted. Opening Day 2010 at my favorite local mountain, Mount Baker, officially came.  In order to ensure we got the freshest of the fresh, our day started crazy early (4:45AM to be exact).  By 5:15AM, SM and NP had arrived and the Subaru was loaded and ready for her first trip to the mountains this year. (Note: “her” is Sweet Dee, my faithful, snow loving Subaru WRX Wagon).

This was probably the earliest I’ve ever departed for a local mountain in as long as I can remember, but the adrenaline coursing through my veins in preparation for Opening Day kept me awake for the 2+ hour drive North.  We arrived at the empty White Salmon Day Lodge parking lot promptly at 7:30AM, a full hour and a half before first chair.  The scene that greeted us set the tone for the entire day: fog and clouds parting to reveal the gorgeous Mount Shuksan, with a deep blue early morning sky as a backdrop.  In my mind, this is some of the best at local ski area scenery.

After gearing up and grabbing our tickets, we settled into the lift line at Chair 7.  Despite being tempted to bring up the powder boards to slay the freshies, we reluctantly all selected our “shit sticks” as our weapons of choice for the miniscule base, which would prove to be a solid decision.  Unfortunately, first chair of the season wasn’t in the cards; we settled on third chair and officially began snowboarding season 2010/2011.

I’m sure everyone’s just begging to know what it was like.  Well, to say the least, it was amazing for a low base opening day.  We spent the first part of our day lapping Chair 8, finding a lot of fun stashes of knee deep powder off the groomed runs, along with a few steeps to drop.  The low coverage actually provided a fun, technical element to a lot of runs in the form of uncovered treetops to zig-zag around while bombing some good pow.  After tracking out a lot of the surface powder around Chair 8, we migrated to the west side of the ski resort off Chair 1 and chalked up a few good runs down Pan Face, Austin and then hopping between the groomers on Blueberry.

Despite some amazing powder runs through the first part of the morning, the last few runs of the day after lunch would take the cake for the day’s highlights.  Due to the low snow conditions, the ski patrol had closed the terrain directly under Chair 5.  This hadn’t stopped a few rope-duckers during the day, but the area remained relatively untracked.  SM and I took a few runs along the ridge, ducking back and forth between the “closed” portion of the ridge and the inbounds portion, but never dropped down.

On the way up Chair 5, we scoped out a nice steep drop off the ridge into Gabl’s that hadn’t been hit at all and decided it was time to go for it.  After scoping our lines from the drop-in point, SM and I dropped in one after another and received a few cheers from the lift that was directly above the portion we dropped into.  The drop in slightly leveled out to portion of untouched powder with a few trees to zig-zag between.  At this point, SM dropped down to the left as I stayed higher to the right and slashed my way though a few trees before we hit the run-out.  Despite lacking in terms of length, the run made for it with a great collection of steeps, pow and trees -- which happen to be my favorite ingredients for a good run.

Looking back at it now I wish I would have manned-up and pushed myself to take one more similar line off the ridge, but at that point my rubbery right leg was making the decisions for me. I think it’s safe to say my so-called off season training didn’t do a lot for me.  After our epic run, we hit Chair 5 back up and made our way back down to the White Salmon lodge. 

Up until that point, my board was left relatively unscathed despite the low coverage.  Then the inevitable…….SCRAPE!  Yup, definitely a core shot*, I thought to myself.  Boy was I right, that rock left a 2” gash underneath the heel of my back foot, all the way to the core and jacking up the edge in the process.  SM's board didn’t make it out without a battle scar of its own either.  Somewhere along the way he took a hit on his edge that actually pushed the edge in and caused the base to bulge out. Oh well, that’s why you have rock boards, right?

All in all, aside from NP aggravating a previous ankle injury of course, it was a great day to start the season off on.  From third chair up, all the way to ducking the ropes for a shot at Gabl’s, it was the perfect kick off for the 2010/2011 season.  Add a great post-riding meal at the newly opened Chair 9 restaurant in Glacier (, the Lone Jack Burger is highly recommended) and you’ve got a solid day.

Now who’s ready for day #2?????

*For those non-snowboarders/skiers a core shot is when you get a gouge in the base of your board/ski that goes all the way though the base material to the core of the board.

Pics from Mount Baker Opening Day 2010:

One of the first cars in the parking lot!

Mount Shuksan.

Talk about primo parking right by Chair 7.

SM waiting it out.

Line at Chair 7 about a half hour before the chair fired up.

First lift of the year, heading up Chair 7!

Sun starting to peak out on the ridge to the north.

Looking up Chair 4 from the Chair 6 line.

One of the best pictures I've taken in awhile....heading up Chair 1 @ The Chute.

This guy had an awesome old school Quiksilver one piece....I must have one.

Hanging out underneath Chair 5 waiting to drop down.

Drop in under Chair 5 to Gabl's.

Core shot!

.Free range burger at Chair 9 - delicious!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Opening Day 2010/2011

Ladies and Gentlemen: IT’S HERE, the 2010/2011 snowboard/ski season.

The addictive white, fluffy stuff (snow not cocaine, geez) has been falling all over the place the last few days, covering all the local peaks. I’ll be completely honest; it’s a VERY distracting situation (ye!) at work. Crystal is opening four lifts today and Baker follows suit with all 7 lifts tomorrow. Granted we’ve still got low snow conditions, but some is definitely better than none.

I’m actually slightly happy that the season didn’t start earlier than this weekend. Why, you ask? Well, it would have made my trip to Hawaii last weekend a little less enjoyable knowing that I was missing one of the biggest events I have ever looked forward to. Don’t get me wrong, I still would have had a blast in Hawaii, but I still would have been a little jealous of all my buddies who were back in the PNW slaying pow while I was soaking up 85 degree weather on a beach somewhere drinking a Miller Highlife (or 10).

Anyway, back to the excitement! I’ve already assembled a crew to head up to Mount Baker at the butt crack of dawn with a goal of getting FIRST CHAIR of the 2010/2011 season. We’ll be armed with cameras and a Contour HD helmet cam (which I would LOVE to get for Christmas, hint hint) so stay tuned for a 1st day report in the next few days.