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 (www.chair9.com, 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!


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