Northwest Ski Trip 25JAN01 - 05FEB01: Crystal Mountain, WA, Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C., Alpental, WA
This was our big ski trip of the 2000/2001
ski season, which was well coordinated by our friend Chris. The plan this
year was to visit the northwest, hitting some of the ski areas near Seattle, as
well as a 4 or 5-day trip to Whistler-Blackcomb. We have a number of
friends in the Seattle area, and our plan was to stay with our friend Scott Bly
during that time, and hopefully meet up with some of the others as well.
Part of this was written on Chris' laptop during the journey and will appear as
After work, E and I picked up James and
headed to our place (Burlington, VT area) to finish packing for the trip.
Tomorrow morning we would fly out of Manchester, NH to Seattle, WA and meet up
with our friends Scott & Konnie. After
finishing up our packing, we headed on down to meet our friend Chris and stay
with him in Lee, NH at his grandparentís place.
It was about a three hour drive to get there, but it meant we were only about
45 min. from the Manchester airport, a much better starting location for a 6:50
A.M. flight. We got on line and checked the forecasts for the northwest,
finding no major precipitation expected for the Seattle area, but a big storm
expected to come ashore for the Whistler area on Sunday into Monday. The
weather would bear watching.
(Manchester-Nashville/Nashville-Seattle) went smoothly. Although it
appears that Southwest Airlines is not big on supplying much food service on
their flights, we did have plenty of room. Both legs of the trip had
ample room for us to grab individual sections of seats to spread out and lay
down. I haven't been able to lay down on a flight in years, and it made
for a very leisurely trip. It was a bright sunny day in Seattle, so as we
flew in we saw amazing views of Mt Rainier, which seemed to explode out of the
surrounding mountains and tower above them. Since it is a volcano, I
guess this description is befitting. We also got views of other famous
volcanoes of the Cascade Range, including Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt.
Baker. To the west, we could see the Olympic Mountains, tipped with white
in the shining sun. Scott met us at the airport, where we had lunch and
waited a couple of hours until Dave's flight arrived in from Boston. Once
we were all together, we headed out to Scott & Konnie's
place in North Bend, a town about 30 or so minutes to the east of Seattle along
interstate 90. It's in a beautiful location, surrounded by mountains but
with easy access to the local supermarket etc. Scott cooked us a great
dinner (his special Friday burritos), and we went off to bed in preparation for
tomorrow's skiing. Tomorrow we would hit Crystal Mountain.
Saturday 27JAN01 - Crystal Mountain, WA
Although I'd heard that the Seattle areas tended to get somewhat heavy snow
(heavy in moisture content that is), somehow I'd heard that Crystal Mountain's
powder was a bit lighter. I'm not sure if this is true or what, but they
do report an average annual snowfall of 340 inches. It seems as though
the Seattle ski areas haven't had a stellar year for snowfall so far, since
even Crystal Mountain's web site made reference to that fact, but we were
heading there regardless of conditions to rip up whatever was on the
ground. The trip from north bend took about 1.5 to 2 hours, the last half
of which was through parts of the Federation Forest State Park and Wenatchee
National Forest where there were few signs of civilization aside from a lot of
clear cuttings where trees had been logged. An interesting aspect of this
was the ability to see the stages of re-growth in the logged areas, as there
would sometimes be signs designating when the new trees had been planted.
We saw one batch that had been planted in about 1990, and the trees looked
about 10-15 feet tall, whereas another area had small trees that were planted
just a couple of years ago.
Crystal sits to the northeast of Mt. Rainier (14,411') on one of its spurs, and the views of the famous peak were outstanding from the top of Crystal. Crystal reports a vertical drop of 3100' and a summit elevation of 7012' at Silver King. I had little prior knowledge of the terrain at Crystal, so I pretty much followed Scott around and enjoyed the ride. On our day at Crystal, we also met up with friends Scott Robinson and Camille. They helped provide a tour of the mountain as well. Scott Robinson also brought along his video camera and tripod, so we had two video cameras running in many situations. The inspiration for this came from watching our friend Matt Duffy's ski video this past January, in which Matt (with the use of only one camera) shot scenes from different angles and blended them together. We're hoping that this technique will make for some exciting footage in our ski movie for this season, stay tuned to our ski & movie web pages for details. We started off the day with a trip up the Chinook Express Six Pack which took us up to the middle of the mountain. We immediately hopped onto the Rainier Express Quad and it brought us up to the Summit House at 6872'. We got some group shots of Rainier, and dropped off the edge into the Green Valley area. It was actually pretty steep, probably 30 or so degrees, but the more traveled areas were a bit icy and the sun-exposed areas were crusty. We found that areas shaded from the sun actually had beautiful snow where it wasn't tracked, and coverage was fine except on slopes that got full sun. We did a few runs here on the Green Valley Chair, working the snow we found in the trees on the front side (see pictures below for an idea of the terrain and conditions), then dropped off into the Snorting Elk Bowl (see picture of Camille below). Crystal feels really big, and you can access a lot of terrain from just a few lifts. The North Country area, which wasn't open at the time, adds even more terrain past the Snorting Elk bowl, and it looks like a return trip from that area requires a shuttle bus (I guess this is where their 3100' total vertical comes from). After leaving the Snorting Elk Bowl, we worked our way to the Forest Queen Lift at the other end of the resort. We enjoyed the trees here, and found great powder when we hiked and traversed a knoll to the skier's right of the lift. About 3 minutes of hiking got us great untracked lines of about 200-300 vertical. The snow in the more traveled woods was mixed, with a few areas of crust, but if you stayed out of where the sun or wind could hit the snow, it was great. The terrain below the South Country Boundary had some really steep tight streambeds. You could easily spend an entire season exploring the nooks and crannies of this resort. After our runs in the Forest Queen area, we called it a day, but we'd had a great experience. In hindsight, (and a bit to my surprise) much like Alpental, untracked snow was a LOT easier to find here than at Whistler-Blackcomb (see below).
Saturday January 27th - Scott blasts
his way down the steeps of the Green Valley /
Grubstake area at Crystal Mountain
Scott Robinson charges down a
tree-lined Chute - skier's right of the new Green Valley Quad
Chris - lower down in the same Green Valley chute
Camille gets ready for her next move - lower area of Snorting Elk Bowl
Our initial plans were to visit Alpental (at Snoqualmie) today, and leave for Whistler-Blackcomb tomorrow, but the weather has a way of changing things. The alpine forecast for Whistler-Blackcomb is now calling for up to 30 cm (that's about a foot) of snow by tomorrow. It's a bit overcast here in North Bend, and Scott says that the conditions at Snoqualmie wouldn't be very good without new snow. So, we decided to head up to Whistler and visit Alpental when we returned to Seattle next weekend.
2:45 P.M. PST - We're on our way north to Whistler from Seattle. We just stopped in Bellingham (about 15 minutes or so from the Canadian border, and 45 minutes from Vancouver) for a bite to eat. Upon exiting from Subway (restaurant), we experienced our first drops of rain. As all our friends say in the northwest, rain means snow. We'll take all the snow we can get.
3:10 P.M. PST - Time for the border crossing. The sign at the border says that approximately 1 in every 100 cars will be checked, and suddenly we hear James on the Talkabout in our car "You feelin' lucky punk?", in his best Clint Eastwood voice. Our car sailed right through, but of course, Clint and friends (Scott, James, and Dave) just got pulled over at customs and the car was spot checked. "Who's feelin' lucky now huh? They behaved themselves and everything went fine. ;)
4:18 P.M. PST -
We're traveling along beautiful Horseshoe bay on the Sea to Sky highway and
it's starting to pour rain on us, I was just on the radio with the other car
and James let out a maniacal laugh. It even looks like snow up in the
coastal mountains right along the shore and out in the bay. This road is
incredible; sheer cliffs above us, and below us (take
a look at the picture below to get an idea). Mountains, ocean, waterfalls
are all over the place. I'm sure it's even better on a clear day.
The drive along the "Sea to Sky" highway (route 99) north of Vancouver. To the right are the cliffs of the coastal mountains, off to the left, the land drops away into Horseshoe Bay
6:00 P.M. PST - We've now arrived at Whistler
Village (2214') and the rain changed to snow about 10 kilometers back on the
road. It's dumping pretty hard even in town and they're still calling for
20-30 cm of snow. Life appears to be good
Impressions of Whistler-Blackcomb
I've got a blow by blow itinerary of our trip below, but I thought I'd give my overall impressions of some aspects of the resort.
The Village: Amazing. It's almost like heaven on earth for a skier. There are shops everywhere, a ski shop or outdoor store can be found on just about every corner. The waist buckle broke on one of my packs, and we had little problem finding a replacement for it. You can walk to anything you want, or there are buses constantly cycling around to help you get where you want to go. The place lives and breathes skiing, and you can honestly feel the amazing ski energy (either that or they pumped something into the air). ;) The village is almost like a real town, with a real grocery store, restaurants, lodging etc., but you can't help but feel the place is just a fairy tale. All the streets are clean, the architecture is fabulous, the people are happy, everywhere you go there are hot tubs and pools. I can see why they get all those number one ratings in the ski magazines, Intrawest has not simply got their act together, they are writing the play. I will now look at every other resort town that I go to and compare it to the Whistler Village. They have set the bar in my opinion. If you have never been to the Whistler Village, it should be on your "to do" list as a skier. Stay right in town if at all possible. We stayed at Stony Creek in the village, and we had a pool and hot tub right outside our door. I love a ski area out in the middle of nowhere where you're isolated and the atmosphere is relaxed, but this is another side of skiing that should also be experienced.
The On-Mountain Food: Wow! It was honestly like eating in a restaurant every time we went to lunch. The lodges had plenty of space to eat (at least the big ones did) and food so good that it made you look forward to lunchtime. However, the poutine does not measure up to the eastern townships on the squeaky cheese curd scale ;) We brought our own food sometimes, but often supplemented it with some of their yummy meals at great Canadian prices. The staff was very professional and everything about the on mountain dining experience was first rate.
The Skiing: They've got just about every sort
of terrain you can imagine: steeps, bumps, groomed, jumps, trees, bowls,
cornices, etc. In that respect they've got mountains to match the beauty
of the village, or vice-versa I guess. Many other aspects of the skiing
were lacking in my opinion however, or at least lacked compared to what I had
expected. I thought that Whistler-Blackcomb had so much terrain that they
could handle the massive crowds their fame brought on, but it doesn't seem so.
We were only there on midweek days, during a supposedly non-busy week, but
there were tons of people. There were often lift lines of 10-20 minutes
depending on the lift. We had three powder days during our trip, and
basically only got "really" fresh tracks on our first run each
time. All those high speed lifts seem to throw massive amounts of people
onto the trails, and they devour the powder quickly. Even the woods get
tracked out quickly. By the third run, the woods were tracked out, and
you were relegated to grabbing little snatches of powder in the tight spots
that didn't really flow well. They don't ignore the woods here, they ski
the hell out of them, all of them. I'm sure there are secret stashes
around that one can find if they know where to look, but that's not really what
I had envisioned. This is kind of a letdown when back home in Vermont at
Sugarbush we have no lift lines, many easily accessible woods remain untracked
for days and days after a storm (as David Barcomb's
recent post to SkiVT-L can attest), and the powder is often much lighter.
Whistler is of course in the northwest, so we expected the snow we received;
maybe 7-8% H2O or so up top heading towards 13%+ H2O or rain in the village,
and that is what we got. The snow quality is not really a complaint, just
more of an observation I guess. It was certainly powdery up top and made
for great skiing all the way down to around 3500' or 4000'.
Monday 29JAN01 - Blackcomb, B.C.
23 cm (9 inches)
of new snow came down for us. We attempted to do the "Fresh
Tracks" program whereupon you ride up on the Whistler Gondola and eat
breakfast at the Roundhouse Lodge followed by first tracks before everyone
else. Unfortunately, it was the first powder day in quite a while and
everybody was doing it so they sold out. We still could have gone up and
eaten, but not really gotten first tracks, so we headed over to Blackcomb to
get our own first tracks. Blackcomb is Scott's favorite of the two, and
he's been here a number of times so he took charge. We headed up the
Wizard express quad which gave us 1855' of vertical, then immediately followed
it up with a trip on the Solar Coaster Express which gave us another
2043'. There were about 9 new inches of snow, and you could see that
there were a few tracks on the trail below the lift (Springboard / Black
Magic). The lift ride seemed to take forever, partly because it did
(3898' gained). We decided to head down right below the lift and get the
easy freshies first. The snow was about 7-9%
H2O and skied great, but we were all pretty cold from the long lift ride and
got thrown around a bit. The bottom section of the route (Black Magic)
was pretty bumped up, and added another dimension to the difficulty. Dave
seemed to love it though and talked about that run for the next two days.
Scott then brought us over to the Jersey Cream Express where the snow wasn't
quite as fresh as the previous run. This chair lift sits sort of below
the Jersey Cream Bowl, and it seems to be an area into which a lot of people
are funneled. This was the first point at which I thought "Wow,
there are a LOT of people here!" After
finding things pretty tracked out in the Jersey Cream area, we headed back to
the Solar Coaster and found what was to be one of our favorite runs. To
the skier's left of the lift line was the Nintendo 64 Terrain Park, which was
roped off to prevent people from entering it part-way down. Inside this
rope was essentially all the terrain between the lift line (Springboard Trail)
and the terrain park, and most people left it alone. We did 3 runs here
and got great powder (see picture below as Dave demonstrates), and by then,
avalanche work was complete and the upper lifts had opened. We rode the
7th Heaven chair up above treeline but found that the
snow was mostly wind-packed and visibility was poor. Below treeline in this area, we hit Cloud Nine the first run,
then the lift line and Sunburn. Conditions on these trails were much
better than above treeline, chowdery
and a bit less tracked out than the stuff over at the Solar Coaster. The
lines in the trees here were good, but not great, so were broke for lunch at
"Rendezvous" at the top of the Solar Coaster. This lodge is
huge, and the food is fantastic (this is pretty much the case with all the
lodges and food at this place). There are even STORES in these lodges
halfway up the mountain, you can get almost anything you need right up
there. E even bought a hat! After our lunch, we dropped back into
our old standby to the skier's right of the terrain park for a couple of
runs. Finally, Scott headed in and the rest of us went off to explore
some new terrain. We headed to the next lift over, the Excelerator Chair, which services 1669' of vertical.
There were some fun trees between the trails here, lots of steep shots and
powder (not untracked of course). We had to search hard for untracked
lines, but we found a few towards the lower sections. After a trip up the
Excelerator, we headed to the final lift on this side
of the mountain, the Crystal Chair. The Crystal Chair is a low speed
triple that services 1203' of vertical along a ridge at the far skier's right
of Blackcomb. We pretty much stuck to the trail below the lift since the
snow looked pretty good. Some of us worked the woods around here while
others skied the bumps. As one of the Snow Hosts
had mentioned, the crowds at the Crystal Chair were light and the snow was less
tracked than other areas (relatively speaking of course). Even at the
bottom of the Crystal Ridge Chair, we still had over 2600' left to get to the
bottom, so we decided it was time to head down. Right below the bottom of
the lift was a long gladed run called "In the
Spirit" which had more fun snow and worked us pretty good. We headed
down below this on some blues and greens (snow got gradually heavier as we
approached the bottom) and caught the bus home. Dave baked up a lasagna, James threw in some garlic bread, and we powered
up for another day of skiing as the snow kept coming down.
Dave hops through the powder in one of our favorite areas between the Terrain Park and Springboard
Tuesday 30JAN01 - Blackcomb, B.C.
The snow continued to fall, and we picked up
another 12 cm (approx. 5 inches) so the snow phone was calling for another
powder day. We hadn't really expected it, so we got out a little later
than first tracks. The temperatures had dropped though, so this snow was
lighter than Monday's, maybe 6-7% H2O.
We headed right up to our favorite stash near the terrain park off the Solar
Coaster and found nice untracked lines. We fired up both video cameras
and got some nice footage - you can see James working hard at Camera #2 in the
picture to the right. After a couple of runs there, we headed over
towards the Excelerator Chair and hit some woods,
then worked our way over to the Crystal Ridge Chair and spent much of the day
there. The speed of the Crystal Ridge Chair kept the snow a bit fresher than
some of the other lifts. We finished off the day in an amazing glade
called Outer Limits, which had a variety of pitches, cool spooky trees filled
with hanging moss, and tons of snow. It was of course tracked out at this
point, but I made a mental note to try and get there for the next powder day,
which the forecast said would be later in the week. Our place at Stony
Creek came with a gas grill on the deck :) so for Tuesday's dinner we had a
special Scott Bly burger night with all the fixin's
Wednesday 31JAN01 -
This was our first day at Whistler, and Scott
gave us a tour around the mountain. We started off by taking the Whistler
Village Gondola which gave us a quick (well sort of) 3796' of vertical.
We headed over to the Harmony Bowl area and found awesome snow. It was
mostly tracked up of course, but really soft. We spent much of the morning
dropping the cornice at Harmony Horseshoe number 6 which had a nice section of
powder to land in. On the left is a picture of James dropping in while
Jay and Dave look on from above. Dropping 20 feet is not actually all
that bad as long as there is powder to land in along with a sloped landing, as
James can attest. I've got a Quicktime video
clip (31 seconds, 6,485 kB) of James dropping in,
which I threw together for fun. You can click on the picture itself, or
follow this link to "James and the Giant Cornice".
You can view a few still pictures from the video if you run your mouse over the
image. If you have a slow internet connection - I would suggest downloading
(right click with mouse should work) the video and saving it to a file while
you read the rest of the report - at 6.5 Megs it can take a number of minutes
to download. James had steamed up his goggles earlier and had them off at
this point, thus he took a big face full of snow when he jumped the cornice
into deep powder. I guess it's a throwback from the old days when he used
to ski with no goggles at all. ;) We played around in the various
sections of the bowl for quite a while. Actually it was pretty cool
because once you skied out of the bowl, you seemed to enter into another one (this
phenomenon was evident in the Low Roll / Kaleidescope
areas). These mountains up here seem never ending (I believe E wrote that
part right there, because I don't recall doing it) ;). At
lunchtime, we headed over to the Roundhouse Lodge for lunch where we had more
great food. We headed up to the summit (via the Peak Chair) for one last
big run to the bottom. We took the Whistler Bowl to Grand Finale followed
by cruisers to the bottom (Crabapple was a lot of cruising fun with rolls and
twists and turns). It gave us a run from 7160' to 2214' for a vertical of
4946', probably the longest run that most of us had ever done. The top
half of the run was unfortunately fogged in and flat light made it tough in the
uneven terrain (bumped up most of the way but fortunately soft snow).
Cruising at the bottom was awesome though on this run. On the previous
two days there had been a zone from about 3500' to 2500' that was very sticky
and tough to ski in, followed by about 500' of snow that was corn and skied nicely.
This day was a bit warmer however, and the snow went from packed powder to corn
very suddenly, thus the snow the whole way was beautiful. If there was a day to do a top to bottom run and enjoy the whole thing,
this was it. The cruising was so fun that James and Jay wanted to take
the Gondola back up just to hit the lower runs, but it was getting late.
I think Wednesday was spaghetti night, another Bly special.
Thursday 01FEB01 - Whistler, B.C.
headed back to Whistler again on this day, with a real hankerin'
to drop some more cornices at the Harmony Horseshoes. Three more friends
had arrived for the rest of the trip, Ben and Greg from Seattle, and Ian who
works ski patrol/snow safety at Solitude in Utah. We headed right over to
the Harmony Bowl again, and dropped into Horseshoe #6. The snow was a
little more packed out than the previous day, but still nice and soft. We
hit some runs and dropped into other areas of the bowl, finishing our runs in McConkey's (getting pretty firm and rutted) Boomer Bowl, or
the Gun Barrels (these had much nicer snow - see picture below for a
visual). We then did a couple of runs in the Symphony Bowl, hitting Sun
Bowl and part of Harvey's Narrow. The snow here wasn't quite as good as
in the Harmony Bowl due to wind / sun, but we did find some nice areas along
Harmony Ridge / The Glades. In the picture to the right, Greg catches a
bit of air in the good snow we found before dropping off the ridge. In
the Sun Bowl itself, Ian found a steep tight chute to the skier's right which
had a section of solid ice. I was very thankful that I'd had my edges
sharpened for that one. Below this nasty obstacle however, we did find
some of the best snow in the bowl as we cut back to the skier's left.
Meanwhile, Scott, E, and Dave headed over to the Big Red Express to explore
different terrain (not bowls) and found some great cruisers, easy woods, and
easy bumps. We all met up at the Roundhouse again for some more great
lunch food, and finished off the day together working some terrain off the Big
Red Express (no lift line here for a change). We hit a cool gully, and
then worked our way under the lift line to some amazing steeps that I don't
think have a name. They had sections in the 40 degree range however and
took a good bit of navigating. Most of the crew went down the main chute,
which had some steep ledgy areas to negotiate, while E and I hit some powder in
the trees off to the right. The lines in the trees weren't really that
great, but there was nice snow. We finished off with the usual cruise
back to Whistler Village, and had yet another burger festival at Stony Creek.
J.Spin starts a run at the top of Gun Barrels and finds a good powder pocket
Friday 02FEB01 - Blackcomb B.C.
evening, it started pouring in the village, and they were calling for up to 40
cm of snow by the end of the day on Friday. By the time the 6:30 A.M.
patrol report was taken, they were reporting 14 cm of new snow. Since it
was our last day of skiing, we got all of our stuff packed into the cars and
drove to the lifts instead of riding the bus. Today we planned to head
back to Blackcomb for yet another powder day. Some of the guys had
visited the bars in the village that night and were a little slow to rise, but
the rest of us made it to the Wizard Quad well before 8:30 A.M. It was
raining moderately, so we flipped down the cover of the quad to keep ourselves
dry. Within a minute or two of riding the chair upward, the rain changed
to heavy wet snow and started to accumulate on the chair cover. We popped
up the cover, and it was dumping snow like crazy so we threw it back
down. James guessed it was about an inch an hour. We next jumped on
the Solar Coaster which brought us up to around 6100'. It was snowing
heavily, with winds of 20-30 MPH, but we quickly headed down the lift line
while there were still some fresh tracks to be had. The snow up here was
heavier than Tuesday's snowfall, more similar to Monday's snow at around 9-10%
H2O. The turns were great, and you could even use the snow to slow
yourself down and check your speed. By now, about 10 inches had accumulated
and a few sections even gave us bottomless turns. Near the bottom of the
run, the others called us on the radio and let us know they on the way up the
mountain. We all gathered together and headed over to the Excelerator Chair, hitting some woods along the way.
The tracks became slightly less numerous, and even less so when we headed over
to the Crystal Chair, which was running slower than usual due to high
winds. Our goal was to hit the Outer Limits, a glade along the boundary
of Blackcomb. It meant that we couldn't get back to the Crystal Ridge
Chair, but we suspected that traffic would be light. Outer Limits already
had a lot of tracks, but there were still some untracked lines in there, and it
had great snow relative to most other trails at that time of day. There
were some great untracked bump lines with blue pitch that everyone was raving
about. I headed off to the skier's right with Ian and Ben, and we were
able to find some steep untracked lines (see pictures below) before we rejoined
the others. After that run, we worked our way to Rendezvous for a bite to
eat. Some folks decided to end their day here (which meant 4000' of
vertical still to go) while I joined Ian, Ben, and Chris and headed back to the
Crystal Ridge Chair. During our first run, we dropped into an area that
said "out of bounds", yet was surrounded by trails (somewhere off the
Excelerator Chair). Here we came upon an
opening with a short 40-50 foot face that had slope of about 60 degrees, but
held snow. Ian jumped in first and lost a pole part of the way down,
sending him into the top of a tree (it was so steep that the tops of trees from
below were right in our faces as we approached the bottom), but he soon
recovered and skied it out. I followed a bit to the left and shaved off a
bunch of snow to control my speed. Finally, Ben came down along Ian's
route and carried with him a ton of snow. Chris had gone around on one of
the trails and used radio communication to guide us to a safe route back.
It seems that in some areas, cliffs made it difficult to get back to the
trails, which was perhaps the reason they called it "out of bounds"
despite being "in bounds". The wind had been howling all day,
and the Crystal Chair had shut down, but now it was running again. It was
running slow enough that I almost fell asleep on the ride up. Ian took us
out of bounds along the edge of the resort to some steep areas that he had
visited on a previous trip. The terrain was nice and steep, but even
though it was all out of bounds, it was tracked up just like the in bounds terrain. We ended up on the Blackcomb
Glacier Road, upon which we traversed out to the other lifts, then cruised out to end the day at the Longhorn Bar at the
base where the others were waiting. That evening, we headed back to the
Seattle area, with some folks making stopovers in Vancouver to meet friends for
Ben crashes through the pow to the skier's right of Outer limits while Ian looks on from above
Ian cranks a turn and lets the powder fly - skier's right of Outer Limits
Saturday 03FEB01 - Alpental, WA
Alpental is our
friend Scott's local ski area (which he usually visits each Sunday). It's
part of the summit at Snoqualmie which consists of the ski areas Alpental,
Summit West, Summit Central, Summit East, and Hyak.
He used to work there in the business end of things, and although he has a
different job now, he has a season's pass there. It's about 20-25 min.
from his house in North Bend. Alpental is a rather small area (2200'
vertical, Bolton Valley sized), but has lots of backcountry
opportunities. There are a few lower lifts that service the lower part
(3200' - 4400'), and then an upper one that services the top of the mountain
(4400' - 5400'). They had reported a few inches of snow overnight, and
Scott started us off with a cruiser on the front side. Conditions were
nice packed powder, not even that wet. For our
second run, Scott brought us into some woods off to the skier's left (a trail
named Dom), where we found plenty of untracked lines in easy to get to locations,
it already felt different than Whistler in that regard. I called these
woods "the Electric Woods" after noticing that there was an electric
box on the tree behind me - and lights! Take a look at the picture below
and you can see the electrical box on the big tree in the background. It
must be neat to ski woods when they're lit up at night, that's something I've
got to try at some point (well - at least legally for the first time)
After a couple of runs on the lower lifts, he brought us to the upper lift
where the snow was even lighter and the terrain somewhat steeper. The
upper lift (Edelweiss) services a nice bowl of the same name, and had great
snow. We found a foot or more of fresh in the untracked areas. We
had a few runs up top, then for the final run we went all the way to the bottom
via International, which is sort of a treeless area (25-30 degrees steep) that
is accessed from the top and finishes off on the front. This is also
where a lot of the (formal) backcountry is accessed. International had
nice areas of chowder, and was bumped up in the higher traffic areas. It
had an interesting entrance that required a people-packed traverse,
this was probably the toughest part of trail. They'd apparently had a
bunch of snow over the week since the base had jumped up about 20 inches since
Scott had last been there. The surface had been very icy, but fortunately
that was gone for our visit. We didn't head out into the backcountry
since we didn't have the appropriate gear. The sign stated that beacons
etc. were only recommended, and not required, but we decided to play it safe
not knowing the area. It's nice to be familiar with the area now for when
I read his ski reports.
J.Spin catches some tree powder in Dom - "the Electric Woods"
Erica works hard on making aggressive turns on a lower part of Dom
Watch the online video of our trip to Alpental!
Just move your mouse over the image below to see a few still shots from the video, click to open the video and watch it in a new window, or right click to download a copy of the video to your hard drive (recommended).
Special thanks to First Tracks!! Online Ski Magazine for their help in publishing this version of the Alpental Video "Snowed-up at Snoqualmie"
I checked the weather and snow reports on Scott's computer, and it looks as though the Green Mountains back home received over a foot of nice light powder on Friday. Another storm is poised to hit us on Monday / Monday night with possibly a foot or more. As much fun as it was to ski these great areas in the Northwest, I can't wait to get back and ski some of that great Vermont powder!
After spending the night in Lee, NH, we headed back up to Vermont. At the time, I was anxious to see what the oncoming storm would do. As it turns out, Chris' grandparent's place in Lee, NH got 18 inches out of the storm, and some NH ski areas got up to 4 FEET of snow. It was good to be home :)
All in all it was an amazing trip with great friends, great weather, and great mountains. We (Erica & Jay) highly recommend a trip to any of these places! Even though Whistler-Blackcomb was much more crowded than I had expected (with regard to skiing), I'd still suggest that every skier go there at least once to get the experience. There's so much to offer that you're bound to find something you like :)
If you'd like to see more of the action from this ski trip, check out the trailer (below) for our 2000-2001 annual ski movie from J&E Productions "North American Escapade".