Sunday, November 26, 2006

Much to be thankful for.

This Thanksgiving holiday started with some nice turns early Thursday morning at Snoqualmie Summit. Only Summit West was open but it was DUMPING snow so although Andrea and my dad and I were limited to getting rowdy on some quasi-blue-square terrain, it was great to stretch the legs and get into the snow. (Oh, and for posterity, this was the first time in over four years, and Andrea's first time EVER, that we used season passes so whatever, green circles all day). While the blizzard conditions hovered at 31 degrees and soaked us through our Gore-Tex, we dreamed of higher colder climes just across the freeway, we would to wait until later days to take our season pass bonanza to its proper vertical and powder filled conclusion.

Ok, fast forward through a wonderful visit to Chester's parents' house in Port Townsend, Washington, home of a green building revolution that appears fronted by retired artists and lawyers. So much the better, particularly as those who hail from Alaska have clearly been saving up their eco-friendly desires to let them fly free in the sea wind of Port Townsend. Ok, that is getting a little fancy - they are fantastic people and both Andrea and I left with renewed spirits and inspired hearts.

But here is where things really got good.
My Dad and I headed up to Crystal on Sunday morning to see what the rain in the city for the past three days had left in the mountains. And to sum it up in one word - bonanza. Our first run down Green Valley yielded knee to thigh deep white gold that sputtered around our grinning eager faces. Case in point - the pops after a few cartwheels through the white room (yes, those are Hestra gloves).
But if the conditions had to be summed in in two words - bonanza and wind. Yikes, in true Crystal Mountain style, it was really whipping at the summit of the mountain. Sure, it filled our tracks with snow before we could ride the lift back to the top of the mountain but it also managed to close the lifts while we stopped for lunch at 2.
Some might question Crystal ski area's bravery when it comes to wind closures but this wind was not messing around. Our last run was just ahead of the ski patrol, after most of the mountain had cleared and dad had his run of the day - it's easier to avoid crashing when you know your son will leave you to die on the mountain in a blizzard if you lose sight of him - and he pulled together a flawless flail-less last run to the bottom.

As we left it was puking snow in the parking lot, making me envious of all the Monday skiers.
And strangest of all...the snow didn't let up, even as I walked into my backyard in Seattle. Awesome.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


This was a weekend of low spirits - I was SO EXCITED to hit the mountains this weekend for some turns, anxiously counting the hours until Saturday morning and to not go dealt my morale a critical blow. I was in such absolute hold-all-my-calls mode that it never occurred to me that the conditions would totally suck.

And they did as evidenced by a quote from a venerable TGR maggot Buster Highmen - "After bidding doo-doo to M. Schmear, M. Clarke and I traversed into the bc where we found crusty horrors beyond compute." That's right, beyond compute. Yipes.

OK, so no Crystal this weekend. What about a nice trail run? Ehhh, not so much. Turns out to add insult to injury, I have been stricken not only with hover-at-33-degrees-itus but also piriformis syndrome, otherwise know as pain-in-the-but syndrome. So no running to let er rest and heal up for up-hill skinning (hopefully in the not-too-far future).

So this weekend I did some stretching, some drinking, killing more non-native plants in the yard, and I tuned all the skis (again). But the Summit opened, we have mid-week passes, they don't block out Thanksgiving, so on Thursday I AM GOING SKIING. That is all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Goat Trail

It's already been more than two months since Chester, Andrea and I did our trip through the Wrangell-St. Elias range on the Goat Trail.

The story is brief is the Goat Trail is a five day traverse through a pass near McCarthy - it's a fly in fly out deal so you are way in the wilderness for all of the trip. It's still a pretty well traveled route in the summer but the time of year we went, in mid-September, there was no one there but us and the goats. And some marmots.

Our reward for braving the snowy stormy nights was a sublime isolation and a true feeling of the Alaskan winter coming minute by minute. To have the world this empty and all to yourself for only a few days, empty save you and close friends, is worth the price of admission of a chilly night's sleep anytime.

Here are more pictures on our Flickr site.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

House chores...

Well, we are back. In Seattle, in a new house, with nothing but rain for the last three weeks. So we have been cleaning non-native plants out of the yard, cleaning, caulking, foam-insulating (this I think is a uniquely Alaskan thing) and, of course, tuning skis. With the rain comes snow in the mountains, and it is coming - just a matter of time. Crystal is scheduled to open this Wednesday and Stevens is not far behind. We are planning on hitting Crystal next Saturday!