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.