Ski Where You Want

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Finally, snow conditions and coverage that allowed skiing any run you wanted. From Campbell Basin to Snorting Elk (Northway was closed - more later) you could ski anywhere. Only limited by your aversion to a here-and-there underlying crunch. With a sharp eye, you could keep the ice aversion well at bay. Also by paying attention, you could ski a lot of untracked pow. And, the first day of the year I didn’t have to ski a groomer.

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The squirrel juices were in full effect as a drive-up snow-dump added 5” of light new to the mix. For first chair, the sky began breaking up for soon-to-be sun breaks. I opened with Valley Bowl and Memorial joining the gang back at Rex with everyone smiling. And the game was on. On previous days, we skied the mountain looking for good snow. Today we skied the mountain wondering where the bad snow was, pausing on the best runs for a few repeats. The worst I found were some icy lumps on lower Frontside and too-firm bumps on Bear Pits. Topping the list was Powder Bowl which was in prime shape. Fighting for second were Door 1 and Exterminator-Eagles Drop-Etc which both had many repeats.

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The only rocks we found were the top of Six trying to enter the Campbell side - please learn to ski, not sideslip. And the only chairline was on Six, so it was one Campbell Basin Chute 2 and out to Powder Bowl. With the whole mountain in good shape, there was no need to stand in line. So we didn’t. A big day, lots of smiles. Most fun day of the season.

Here’s where I usually would put in a watch for elk warning. You should still watch for elk on the highway, but also put trees on your watch list. There were two trees down on 410 today, one midway through this morning’s commute. Our bud, JD, couldn’t see a 10”er across the road and hit it at 40mph. Not good for his SUV.

Today’s Rant - Crystal will never be a destination resort if they don’t open all their chairs every day. Northway is closed mondays and tuesdays. And Chair Six doesn’t open till 10 even though the Marketing Report says open 9-3. 

Kkz

Forecast
Although most of the powder is cut up, there will still be lots of cut pow over crunchy spots for tuesday - But watch for strong winds coming in that will probably shut down the top. A LOT of precip starts late tuesday with snow levels about the base to midway. As temps drop tuesday night, wednesday will again be very snowy and hopefully diminishing winds will allow everything to open. This looks like the big storm we’ve needed. It might be friday till it all gets sorted out, however.

Good, Great, and Bad

I felt like a real skier today. This winter of weird weather and mostly mediocre snow has made me feel weak at times. Not today. There was some very nice snow, boot top to calf deep where unskied. However, in most places it was over a lumpy base of now frozen cut-up wet snow. It took a sturdy quadricep to hold on when you hit the lumps, but well worth it when you skied into a powder area.

As usual, the south side (north facing) area of Green Valley Bowl was great and stayed great all day. Anything below 6,000 feet was marginal to ugly. Iceberg and Luckyshot started out as good groomers, then succumbed to the light crowd’s ski edges by 10:30, becoming large areas of unedgeable brown ice. The ice did have one redeeming quality as it locked the rocks down, and the only areas of watch-your-edges were on the transitions and easily avoided.

We hit Chair Six minutes after it opened. The traverse is in great shape other than being completely clogged by Team No Wax. No pushing required unless you’re behind them. Nice we could get a couple laps in before they pushed out to the powder. And powder there was. The only thing wrong with a completely untracked A-Basin rope line was I couldn’t see half the time as CD hoovered up plumes of pow.

I considered it my duty to sample as much as I could for the safety of humankind. Memorial was a no-go, Breakover interspersed nice new snow and hidden ice blocks. Bear Pits was 25% untracked bliss and 75% get-me-out-of-these frozen lumps. Door 6 had 3 of the nastiest icy moguls before reaching today’s standard pow over crunch. Powder Bowl should have been awesome, but was carved up while it was mush and is now frozen in those odd shapes. Grubstake almost hurt me, Elksnort was nice and soft, but skied out after just two of us.

So, as the day wore on and our skiable terrain got smaller, Valley Bowl and Valley Trees, kept the smiles going. Until someone suggested a Top-2-Bottom. More for the warm Gondy ride than the snow. Valley was great, but Sluiceway, Berry Patch, and Upper Lower E (figure that out) are the reason I have so much soreness in my old age. Lower Lower E was good, but not worth the pain of getting there. 

It’s a fine balance between causing pain and seeking smiles. I was lucky with body and brain finally, this year, able to ski the junk underneath and not hurt myself. And to reflect after a mind numbing slow drive home, what a fun day.

Kkz

Forecast

Conditions will repeat tomorrow although with a little less new snow and a lot more people. Earlybirds will get the best-snow worm. Sunday will be nasty with a lot of snow and high winds. I hope it’s windy enough to shut down the mountaintop and save the snow for monday (me). Continued daily precip and coolish temperatures for the next 10 days. Might finally be winter. 

Heavy New

Snow only a mother, I mean Crystal Skier, could love. Chairs only Crystal could mess up so badly. Hordes of people only a good marketing department (and clueless weather watchers) could deliver. To call today’s snow powder was a travesty and an insult to powder snow. Longtime local knowledge and a great gang of ski buds turned it into a day of fun.

Yesterday dumped 10-16 inches (3” at the rainy base) of new very wet, very heavy snow across the mountain. The base mostly rain, the top only a couple hours of rainish precipitation. At its best it was heavy untracked. At its worst, mashed potatoes that would make a Thanksgiving dinner proud. We Crystal Skiers expected this, but there were thousands of people that listened to the TV weather guy and the Crystal marketing report and came up to ski “over a foot of fresh snow this morning and the gettin’ was good!”. Only to wait in the Chinook line and take an hour to get to the top of the mountain. Chinook was running at 1/4 speed and stopping after every second chair load. By the time we got to the mountain top, the people that had waited hours for the first Gondy buckets had tracked up most of the new snow. The gettin’ was good for the first 50 skiers.

But, we sucked up the slow line, slow chair, and frozen butt and dove in. Low expectations were exceeded on Breakover into Sunnyside. Down to about 5500 feet, that is, where you hit the rain line. A couple untracked turns up top then into Door 8 turned into more goodness. LS Trees should have been bypassed. We tried this and that with some winners - Valley Bowl, and some losers - Bear Pits. When we realized we had perfect timing for the Northway opening it was game on. It turns out you can get two awesome untracked runs in before the hordes of shouldn’t-be-out-on-Northway-in-deep-heavy-snow skiers make it to the bottom forming a huge line. Never seen so many newbies stuck in the deep heaviness, climbing out of the creek, or hoping that saying “there’s no place like home” will get them a balloon ride out of the ungroomed backcountry. 

Since everyone had gone to slog out of Northway or wait in line on C-6, we lapped Rex and Green Valley until the hard packing wet snow beat us down. Valley Bowl continued to deliver, Grubstake needs hundreds of skier-groomers, and both Iceberg and Luckyshot ground down to last week’s ice and brown spots.

What had started off as a frustrating day of bad mountain operations turned into a fun day. Knowing when and were to go was the key. I had my expected this-ain’t-gonna-be-good spots as well as surprises of secret-spot greatness. Sometimes one or two runs can make your day. Make those runs with your best ski buds and life is really good.

Kkz

Forecast

The snow was packing really hard everywhere. Won’t be a pretty sight after tonight’s freeze. Tomorrow freezing levels will rise, softening the snow, but light precip will be rain. Sunday and monday bring really high freezing levels for some deep slop till skier grooming smooths and packs the off-groomed. Tuesday the freezing level drops. Or does it? Really warm temps in the lowlands mean more mountain rain. Mountain forecast say ice. Check the late monday updates.

Ice Day

It was the kinda day that hurts your joints, but your muscles don’t get tired. And, it was clear early on that deviating much from the Valley Bowl and Groomers wasn’t going to end well. I didn’t get too adventurous, stuck with Plan A, and had a fun morning.

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As it had rained for a day after my last outing, the firmness wasn’t unexpected. What was unexpected, but not unusual, was that the strong southeast wind kept any softening from happening. The forecast this week will be a bumpy ride. And speaking of bumps and bad segues, the bumps have not changed shape since last week. Luckily, however, Crystal was able to groom Iceberg and bury most of the rocks - lasted about 2 hours thanks to the very light crowd.

If you went fast enough to keep boredom at bay, the Run-of-Day was Valley-Berg. As in everything else was worse. Luckyshot had acres of smooth, unedgeable ice. Powder Bowl had firm oddly shaped bumps that alternated ice, styrosnow, and lumps. We skied it, but not worth a repeat. So I smoothed as much of the Valley Bumps as I could and raced down Iceberg, just backing off when the jittering snow made my eyes rattle. Testing a new GPS run tracking app showed that to be right around 53mph through the gravel-strewn snow where Iceberg narrows and flattens.

Wohoo! Wohoo? Repeat Bumps-Then-Speed about a dozen times and you got it. As the wind strengthened they shut down The Gondy, then Chair Six, (Northway was a goner from the get-go), and slowed Rex to a crawl. It was time for me to go. Glad I went and glad I’d sharpened my edges. 

Kkz

Forecast

There will be a fine line between 3-4 days of rain, and 3-4 days of wet snow. Crystal could be on either side, and likely both during the week. Crystal needs snow, a lot of snow. I don’t know if I pull any weight (no jokes), but my plan would be a couple feet of wet snow. It’ll be very warm and mostly sunny for the weekenders to chop it up. A very non-historic-damn-global-warming january look to the forecast.

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Bump Day!

Picking the sunniest day of the week was the perfect plan. After avoiding the Holiday Hordes and yesterday’s warm but windy/cloudy non-thawing surprise, today’s wall-to-wall sun, blue sky, and already-soft snow threw out the welcome mat.

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By 9:15, our first run was springtime soft in the sun after a little packed pow bump action in Valley Bowl. So, I’ll cut to the chase. Soft bump perfect. That is, in the areas, slim though they were, where it had been skied enough to consolidate the snow. Sunnyside, Grubstake, and Iceberg Right delivered the goods. Limited options, although, with no non-groomer skiers in sight, we four had our own private ski runs with perfect “spring” snow.

The biggest vert day, and the most fun day of my season. I shouldn’t, but I will say the rest of The Gang would (might?) agree. What could be better than slicing huge bumps, easy carving bumps, straight down the fall line in a Hawaii shirt? While your Amigos are 2 bumps left or right jamming to the same beat. OK, sometimes they’re in front, but you’re both dancing to the same mountain rhythm. So you’re not a child of the 70s bump skiing scene? Well, you should be. Or learn to be - in my less than humble opinion. We didn’t see one other person on Sunnyside enjoying the perfect conditions.

On many days, the off-corduroy conditions are bumpy. Like today, huge bumps. You’re limiting your skiing by not venturing out into the moguls. It takes a lot of energy, and quick reflexes, but isn’t that what you’re looking for? Why are you skiing? Push your limits when the conditions lack smooth corduroy or powder. Take it slow if you feel intimidated. Look up some old school videos. It’ll open up a whole new world and quadruple the area of the mountain you can ski. (Disclaimer - If more people were skiing the off-groomed bumps, it would consolidate the snow so there’d be more perfect, soft, snow for us bump skiers)

And, if done “right”, you can bump ski till you’re an old crotchety blogger.

Kkz

Forecast

Tomorrow’s incoming clouds and dropping freezing levels will not be kind to today’s slushy snow. But, the cooling may not be enough to keep rain from wetting down the lower 2/3rds of the mountain. Precip will be the call late thursday through sunday with snow levels up and down from mid-mountain to the summit. The outcome???? I’ll wait and see, maybe monday……

Nice Day

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A wonderful day with the Amigos, and finally, some aggressive skiing. Coverage has improved and worsened at the same time. Given the incoming weather, today’s report might be academic.

The sun wasn’t kind to the snow it shone on, as it was left firm and crusty. Avoiding it was easy, however, as we knew to stick to the shaded slopes and trees. Easy this time of year with the very low sun. Valley Bowl started with a couple inches of new over carvable bumps. Iceberg was nice, although strewn with more and more rocks as the day progressed. Iceberg and Luckyshot were not groomed last night even though Crystal had LS on the groomed list. I don’t know if they can groom them as the coverage is so thin in spots the groomers were already hitting dirt. I said we knew how to avoid the bad areas. One, look over the edge. Two, stick close to the trees. Three, don’t get cocky and ski Memorial. Where memorial was untracked, it had a breakable frozen crust. Where the snow was skied, small trees and rocks needed avoiding. We knew better….

The no-sun spots in Green Valley were quite fun, but the money shot was Northway. Excellent coverage, better than normal in places. Paradise Bowl Special Entry and Bruce’s Bowl and Trees started the fun, mid Northway bumps below The Nose made me hot. And the bonus was the lower under-the-chair bumps. Huge bumps not for the faint-of-bumps heart were soft, carvable, adrenaline inducers. With the low snowpack, you can ski the entire width without fear of decapitation by skis on the chair. The Gang all agreed Northway was the first real, aggressive skiing of the year.

Holiday skiers are weird. We couldn’t figure out why, with what looked to be a large (but late arriving) crowd, there were no lift lines. A trip up the FQ lift solved the mystery. Some were skiing FQ’s groomers, but most were in the lodge having pizza and beer. There was an acre of skis and poles outside the Campbell Basin Lodge that was packed with humanity. At least I assume humanity; didn’t look too close. Amigoette bailed on the 10+ minute restroom line to come ski Powder Bowl. The top of Six is a mayhem of rocks, and the top third takes a lot of rock and ice dodging to get to the good snow on the lower bowl.

The weather was changing as we skied Lower E’s bumps at 1:30 - the right side with a couple inches of warm-temp slush that made the big bumps a hoot. The left is strewn with small treetops and rocks.

A day of tasty treats that made us want more. More, will take new snow

Kkz

Forecast

It’s gonna be questionable what comes out of the storm that was moving in this afternoon. Base temp was already at 32 with near light rain. Friday, the almost consensus is the snow level will rise to or near the summit. Hopefully a dump of wet snow will splat down before it likely turns to rain. Regardless, it’ll be wet for a day. Saturday the temperatures drop to skidded ice or frozen glop conditions. If my plan carries any weight, I’m out till next week when we see what, if any, snow happens and what the holiday weekend crowds do to it.

Blue Skies

Whew! After yesterday’s heavy snow, fog, and huge crowds, today was impressive. Horizon to almost horizon (sorry North Cascades) clear blue skies and awesome packed pow bumps. The cold temperatures and clear skies overnight firmed the snow slightly, but the tail end of yesterday’s crowd beat most of the heavy, lumpy, snow into submission. With no lines, it was fast repeats, and with excellent visibility it was easy to see the line and ski hard.

And we did ski hard, sampling everything from Bear Pits to Snorting Elk. I hardly ever say this, but Iceberg was the run-of-the-day. Soft fluffy bumps with perfect rhythm. Mid-day, the Valley Bowl loosened up and provided the same. As the sun rose higher (a sad kind of higher on this winter solstice day) we got hot and had to remove an inner layer. The loser run today was The Doors - Too narrow, rocky, and oddly firm. Bear Pits skied fairly well, but was too scary as you tried to recover from hitting small treetops only to see a field of punji sticks (cut off saplings) ready to skewer you if you fell. Well BP needs more snow as do the top of the Doors, upper and mid Frontside, the Grubstake traverse, and by the end of the day, Iceberg.

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Too tired to say much more other than “you shoulda been there today”. Not yesterday per Crystal’s Wohooo Powder Alert. It was amazing that so many people came up yesterday, most unable to ski the deep heavy new snow. And today there was almost no one there for the hit-the-nail-on-the-head forecast of bluebird sky and perfectly skier-groomed leftovers.

Lots of grins today, Merry Christmas

Kkz

Forecast

By day’s end, the rocks were growing fast. Not much new in the forecast for the next 4-5 days. The forecasted heavy Holiday crowds will quickly grind everything down to either ice or rocks. Even the tomorrow-opening Chair 6 had no untracked snow due to people that hiked from Windy Pass. Northway is opening saturday, anything good won’t last long. Christmas with family and friends will make me wait for some new snow.

Heavy

I figured all the hubbub about this storm would bring people out of the woodwork for a powder day. I was off by a factor of two as it the crowd was heavier than most mid-season weekend days. And, I wondered about the powderness with the warm temps while it was snowing. Our first foray got first tracks in 12-18” of new snow. Heavy new snow. But, it wasn’t too bad and our quest was to find some steeper untracked to mitigate the heaviness.

Not to be. The crowd skied the limited terrain (Chairs Six and Northway being closed) into lumps after one run. Even the closed runs were tracked by poachers before they opened at 10:30. Nothing was groomed above the bottom of Luckyshot, but that didn’t stop a 20 minute line from forming at C-3 at 9:30. By the time they opened the Frontside it was too late and it was only cut up heavy lumps. A lot of work while skiing blind.

Guess I didn’t mention the visibility. There was none. After cleaning your goggles on the chair to get the “snow” making frozen mist off (required holding your ungloved hand on the lens till it melted and then quickly wiping dry) the thick fog at the top refroze on said lens before you got off. Three hand freezing wipes to get to the bottom. So, we tried a groomer on Forest Queen. Stand in line for the goggle freeze and then cruise quickly, blindly, down Rolling Hole. Luckily it was smooth enough to be able to ski with ice-blurred vision.

By late morning we realized the blind, heavy-lump skiing really wasn’t any fun and decided to let the horde finish skier-grooming the hills for tomorrow. I pity the beginners on the lower mountain skiing in the constant rain of the “snow” guns. I could bare see to avoid people as I approached the bottom. And, due to running the “snow” making, Crystal won’t pay for the extra electricity and was running Rex and the Gondola on diesel. Noisy, dirty, and slow.

So, we live to ski another day. I thought paying our dues skiing rock strewn groomers would make today a winner. This one's in the loser column. But what you gonna do except keep going.

See you tomorrow.

Kkz

Forecast

No new snow through sunday. What you see is what you get. Temperatures will stay cold so that’s good. If our friends do a good job skier grooming today’s heavy snow, it’ll be pretty good till the Holiday Crowds grind it down to the barely covered brush and rocks. I forecast much christmas frenzy interrupting ski plans starting friday.

Awaiting the Thaw

I’m extremely lucky to have a gang of ski partners that help make extremely marginal conditions turn into a fun day. Today’s credit goes my constant support group, Amigoette, CD, and LD. Thanks.

There’s a number of considerations that go into a snow condition grade. One: terrain available - today 1 out of 10. Two: quality of snow available - today 4 out of 10, minus 2 points for trying to find an entry point through the rocks. Three: a combination of weather, visibility, and adrenaline - Today gets a 4 for weather (see east wind below), 6 for visibility (see low sun below), and 2 for adrenaline (see groomers below). Then, factor in the chasing your buddy factor, 7, laughing on the chair, 8, whining about the same icy patches, 9, carry the 2, divide by the after ski glass of wine, and you get…… Crap I don’t know. It just all wraps up into a fun day. But, spoiler alert, they need much more snow.

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Valley Bowl still holds the best snow, but use caution dropping in or traversing from C-3, as there’s more rocks every run. The snow has firmed up and there is no fluffiness left. Edge hard and avoid the icy slides. Or, prosper and live long - I’m not sure. We ground down the little pockets here and there.

I expected the 10Kft freezing level to serve up some dig-up-dirt slush. As often happens, however, a brisk east wind canceled all softening. The low-in-the-sky sun offered no help. The 4 turns on Gandy’s that did soften late in the day instantly dug down to dirt. That’ll be all of Luckyshot if the forecast holds. The lower angle runs off Forest Queen had plenty of snow, were groomed well, and the relaxing speed kept me in the fun zone most of the day. Big loopy runs down Valley Bowl Right, various short bump aspects, Luckyshot’s rocks and icy bumps, up Forest Queen, down Downhill or Rolling Hole, Stump Farm to add some nastiness, and run to the Gondy. Repeat.

You know it’s limited conditions when The Gang goes in for lunch. We had to try out the acclaimed new Pizza Oven. Said oven takes forever to heat up and lunch was delayed. That said, the tastiest run of the day was Pepperoni Pizza and a Beer. So, we skied the Group W route (kinda trace the aforementioned line) over and over till it was successfully ground down to icy patches, firm bumps, and hidden rocky groomers. And then called it a day, a week, an until-new-snow-falls fun time.

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Kkz

Forecast

The east wind has delayed the expected warm up, maybe tomorrow they say. Once that happens, the thin snow sunny aspects will deteriorate fast, really fast. If the warmup is delayed, things will deteriorate, but slower. FQ groomers will be the place to last the longest. And they may have to since the 10 day forecast has zero new snow. Me, I’m hanging up the now-scarred Rock Skis and getting chores out of the way so that when winter returns, I’ll be ready and available.

Start Again

After an opening day of Pow Galore, it was frustrating to see it destroyed by 6-7” of rain-to-the-top over the next 6 days. I finally thought the mountain had recovered enough to venture up for opening number two. Turned out to be a fun day of putting the rock skis through their paces. More fun than the conditions and limited terrain foretold.

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There’s very limited terrain open and judging from what was available, the rest must be pretty bad. (disclaimer, there’s a lot of beginner/intermediate runs that we didn’t sample on Forest Queen and Not-So-Quick Silver). The best snow was Valley Bowl Right to Valley Second Face Left, to either Chairline or Ann’s run. As the only options up top were Green Valley and Luckyshot, variations of these lines got many repeats.

Rex isn’t running this whole week to make people do Top-to-Bottoms, taking more time and limiting the amount of carnage on Luckyshot. Luckyshot T2B to the Gondola was smooth, fast, minimally exciting, but did the early season trick. Their plan wasn’t working, however, as by 11:00 Luckyshot was covered in dug up rocks, gravel, and ice. That didn’t deter our Rock Ski Gang from many runs.

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So… We bounced around, turning soft moguls into firmer moguls and turning leftover crud into icy rain crust. I expected the conditions to be marginal, we didn’t expect to have so much fun. If it had been later in the season, repeat boredom would have kicked in. As a mogul skiing brain tune-up, it was great.

All the lifts were running slow today, especially the only top-access Gondola. Seems (word on the street (no streets actually involved)) that Crystal didn’t anticipate the additional electricity that the new Razzle-Dazzle snow making would take. Rather than pay higher rates, they’re running some chairs on diesel, slowly on diesel. The Gondola was running very slow this morning on diesel. It switched to electric mid-day, but still ran slow. When asked why, the operator gave a slack jawed I-don’t-know expression.

It was a great day getting the band back together and skiing what little terrain was open into won’t-be-nice-tomorrow conditions. Sorry.

Kkz

Forecast

Temps will rise to a hot 10-11K ft snow level tomorrow through at least sunday. The sun will be nice, but warm temperatures will finish off Luckyshot in a day as the already thin grooming was digging up gravel. The icy spots on the upper mountain will change to some good spring skiing for a few days, but with the Rock Skis already clanking a lot today, it will not be pretty by week’s end. As no new snow is forecast for the next 9 days, I’m going for some rock skiing wednesday and then time off till more snow falls. 

Back

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Every summer I forget how this sport works. What to pack, what to wear, when to leave in the morning. Did I get everything - do I know how to ski? Only forgot one nonessential thing today. Apprehensions resolved I dropped into the untracked Green Valley Bowl. Quickly, the correct programs and subroutines kicked off in my brain and it was quite the run floating down in boot-top to knee-deep fluff. Yeah, I can hang out with this sport.

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We moved around hunting for early-season powder. The mind was excited to go. My quads threw up some protests for a while. Coverage is really good for opening day, however, the normal ridges and windblown spots will test your rock skis if you’re not careful. When floaty powder turns changed to lumpy transitional snow, we just moved to another spot.

Crystal’s a little behind the mountain opening curve - no Gondy, no Green Valley grooming, and no Frontside gates. It actually worked well for us as the early afternoon opening of The Doors was nice. And the late opening of Sunnyside kept the snow in good shape. Just for us, I’m sure.

My brain really wanted to keep going, but, my legs were toast. The lower parts of Rex were getting heavy as the out-of-the-sun aspects turned from lumps to nice packed pow. The last run T2B down Sluiceway, Berry Patch, and Lower E had moments of untracked, and moments of near muscle blowout. Time to go

Kkz

Forecast

Some transitions, ridges, and choke points were getting ground down. Be careful. No new and a saturday crowd will explore the snowpack depth. A good storm will hit sunday/sunday night with rising snow levels - likely to mid-mountain. Turning showery on monday with a wet base. Then it all might come tumbling down to a more normal november on tuesday with increasing precip and 9-10K foot snow lever, aka rain. It will be interesting going into the thanksgiving crowd fest.

Time for a Change

With the skis put away and the first warm days of spring, finally, it's time to start getting prepared for the summer activities. I pulled together clips from some easy windsurfing days last summer to get mentally prepared. Bring it on...

Skiing - Over and Out

Another year done. Time to move on to activities that don't rely on snow and cold. Looking forward to the summer's adventures and maybe some warm, dry weather (hoping...).

A season video summary.

Reminiscing the fun of the '16-17' ski season at Crystal mountain.

A Blast!

Finally, spring has sprung. At least for one day, anyway. Warmest, sunniest, and softest snow of what has been traditionally called, spring skiing. We’d paid our dues and deserved one last hurrah. And it was a blast. Horizon to horizon clear blue sky with views of all the volcanos from Hood to Baker. White snow blazing in the sun and the bluest blue contrast of the sky. It took the sting out of the off-piste being unskiable when the day started.

It warmed quickly, coats were dropped in favor of Hawaii shirts, and the fun really began. Most of the off-groomed areas remained no go zones as they quickly went from frozen lumps to unconsolidated slop. Powder Bowl had large slide areas leaving smooth soft corn behind. A quick zig (or was it zag) through the bowling ball avie debris and then follow the soft zipper line down the lower bumps. Showtime, the only Frontside area with enough skier grooming, stayed in the perfect zone between soft enough to carve and not quite too soft/deep to ski. We were first to try it and by afternoon the 50 foot wide swath was crowded with slush skiers. Top-2-Bottom out The Gap was the Un-Crowd run of the day. Soft slush, smooth deep slush, huge bump slush, and fast smooth transitions. Whoohooo!

Why do I tell you this? Probably just to rub it in that I finally got the spring day we deserved many weeks ago. Unfortunately, this one day high pressure system will move east tonight, and the weekend, the last weekend, will again be cool unskiable crunch till the wet snow or rain comes down. Therefore, I’m throwing in the odd-weather-year towel and calling it a good ski season. Long underwear in the wash, skis in the rack, and looking towards the strong winds and tasty waves of summer.

Kkz

Unsprung

Spring was supposed to spring into action today. We raced towards Crystal this morning expecting blue skies and warm sun. Somewhere along the forecast lines, wires were crossed. The supposed warmest spring day of the year turned cloudy with a stiff east breeze, our nemesis this year, and nearly everything was a frozen wasteland throughout the day.

Valley Bowl was pretty good in a relative sort of way and Iceberg was quite Bergery in a very firm, but carvable kinda way. The east wind was scouring the ridge top and our faces with 30-40mph ice crystals. Lower Bull was soft on the groomed half and frozen moguls from hell on the ungroomed side. It only took one mogul turn to cross 80% of the mountain off today’s run list. I forgot this lesson later.

So, we Valley Berged around - actually there was no around, it was just Valley Berg Valley Berg, Valley Berg…. - with one random Luckyshot thrown in. It took a good tuck to get across the flats into the headwind. By 10:00 our hope was to stick it out till noon. So we took a poke at Powder Bowl.

The Main Chute that isn’t a chute was a weird-but-fun tangle of wind drifts, and the middle was OK. The further down you got, the worse it got. This is where my brain faded. Ski Amigo was pointing towards Bear Pits. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, and since he pointed again, I thought he wanted to give it a try. Actually he was saying “don’t go to Bear Pits”, which I realized after arriving solo through the gate. I’ve skied The Pits in a lot of bad conditions. One of our sayings, for any run, is “I’ve skied it worse” in a effort to make it seem not so bad and make us feel better. I can say after today, I’ve never skied it worse. In fact, I can only think of one other day anywhere that conditions were worse. 

Valley Bowl to C-3 Chairline and Elk Snort then put me in One-More-Run Mode. There was just barely enough stoke on Elk Snort, 15 best turns on the mountain, to last through the groomer and most of the way up the chair. Making you forget how cold you were and how the wind driven ice chucks hurt your face. OK, one more. OK, one more. OK….. Um that’s it. Thirty minutes past our original noon goal. Yea!

But you take what you get and make some fun out of it. Mission Accomplished.

Kkz

Forecast

The “good” weather has ended and the weather will return to, “more or less, what it has typically been thus far this season”. It’s kinda fun watching the NWS guys try to make a prediction out of this year’s chaos. Roll with the punches. Those punches looks like frozen with occasion wet snow on top and rain at the bottom for a couple days. Cloudy but dry wednesday, another punch, then dry and sunnyish on friday. Doesn’t look good after that and as “the models disagree” and all bets are off. Actually, after throwing in the 2017 weather randomizer, all bets are off sounds like a pretty accurate forecast.

ROI?

Not sure I made a return on my investment today. Beautiful weather. The snow, not so much.

I was wary of the forecasted sunny day as there were some hints of clouds and/or the temperature staying cool. So, the early wake up decision. It was obvious that temps had dropped overnight as the open bedroom window coolness made getting out of bed way down the priority list. But I did. The weather check out the window showed clear starry skies. The computer check showed the temperature 10 degrees warmer than sunday. With clear skies, it looked like a sun-warmed soft snow day. Ready, set, load and go. But…… there was that pesky east wind at 30mph.

A beautiful morning on the mountain. Cloudless sky, lots of snow, blasting ridgetop wind. Valley Bowl skied nice. And then your choice was one of two icy groomers. Iceberg. Luckyshot. Iceberg. Luckyshot. Iceberg, Iceberg, Luckyshot. That got boring quickly. One turn in Memorial was enough. One run down Grubstake - enough. On Bear Pits you could see the possibility of another 10 degrees. ElkSnort was OK, Mr. Toad’s Ride - yikes. Hoping a T2B would find some 10:30 softening I committed. Sluiceway, Berry Patch, Lower E were a disaster. So Valley Bowl to C-3 Chairline to mind numbing repetition.

And so, as clouds moved in cancelling any softening even more, I thought one more T2B. Give it a last chance, or go home. Quarter to 12, Rex was down. Fifteen minutes in, the electricians were still scrambling. I took it as a sign to head homeward. Three hours and twenty minutes of driving for 3 hours of battling lumpy ice. Not sure I made a positive influence on the fun-o-meter. But my heart monitor watch said I got double my exercise goal for the day. WooHoo!

Kkz

Forecast

Looks like wet snow on top, rain at the base through friday and them freeze it up for some light snow showers through saturday. Clearing on sunday, but that’s a long ways out in tough-to-forecast land. Next week Crystal shuts down all but the Gondy and Green Valley. Good weather/snow will mean slow Gondy lines for T2Bs and limited terrain in Green Valley. All could change with the flip or flop of a frontal passage - for better or worse. We’re nearing the end.

It’s Unfortunate

I felt strong today, which is surprising given the snow condition. It’s unfortunate that when you are skiing your strongest, best of the year, the weather, snow, and lift season are winding down. And fortunate that even in the odd conditions today, my skiing felt effortless, fast, and it was a hell of a fun day.

As the odd spring weather pattern continues, today’s conditions are no guarantee of future performance. Just like stocks, it’s a crapshoot of warm rainy days, cold frozen days, and only the occasional sunny spring days. The snow was just about the same everywhere this morning. Four to 10 inches of lightish new snow over a crunchy frozen rain crust. Full of lumps and bumps, it looked terrible. And skied great if you came at it with authority. Once I learned that the head sized lumps were crunchy, but not frozen down, I could throw down any line with ease. The faster you went, the better it skied.

From the steep and narrow, to the trees and glades, nothing but grins. In the morning we sought out untracked and worked our way left to right in Bear Pits till it was tracked. A 5 minute line on Six kept us to only 2 Campbell Basin runs, as our ski-time brains balked at the wait. Powder Bowl’s Main Chute is so full of snow it’s chuteless but leads to perfect snow for skiing the Mid-PB Nose. North-facing aspects held up well to skier tracking, and while testing those, ended up with a few more big untracked lines.

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My most excellent cadre of ski amigos kept throwing out prospects that sounded like horrible ideas any other day, and as we felt so strong, everyone dove right in. Banana Chute’s sketchy entry didn’t deter us. Nether did Employee Housing’s lower elevation thickening. Or Secret Trees, or Lower E’s huge bumps. Or Mr Toad’s Wild Ride off Snorting Elk, or C-3 Chairline’s off-angle ice turning to pow turns. Skied close to my bud – sometimes he knows where I’ll turn before I do, and I never ran into anyone. CD threw down the Sketchy Line of the day through the Rinky Dink cliff band. Well done as I watched from below.

I wish I felt this way in December. Strong enough to never feel tired legs, never out of breath. It seems the only thing that gets me in shape for skiing is skiing. A most wonderful day. Unfortunately, with the expected weather and coming lift closures, the days are numbered.

Kkz

Forecast

We need snow - something happening monday - or sun and heat -maybe tuesday. Back to the crapshoot wednesday with rain at the base and wet snow up top. Showers of the wet sort through friday, and I quote the National Weather Service for saturday, “so a glimmer of hope exists for a respite from the cloudiness and showers”. Not the best forecast, but wax up, get ready, and when it looks good, go. And ski like it’s your last day - it might be.

You know how hard it is to get your house painted these days? The weather lately has been odd for spring. Not that spring around here is great, but you usually get 3-4 nice sunny days alternating with 3-4 cloudy rainy days. Not this spring. Only a smattering of occasional dry days and only some of them are sunny. Spring skiing needs the same conditions needed for getting your house painted. A few days to dry out and then some warm sunny days for paint to dry. Or for the snow to soften. And then when we have a clear day forecast, the hope is dashed at the last minute, unnoticed by the forecast, when your clear weather suddenly turns cloudy and wet.

As much as Crystal ballyhoos each overnight snowfall, it has been exactly what we do not need. Cold temps continue to firm up - note, firm means rock hard - the latest wet snow or rain soak for the mornings. Each new snowfall means a few runs of smooth butter, then unconsolidated slop. Not trusting the forecast, I checked at 5:00am verifying it would be a clear day in the mountains. Unfortunately, a 15° morning temp meant that softening would be slow. I left as late as my traffic-avoidance squirrel brain allows and missed the first icy groomer of the morning. I did arrive for enough groomer action to do me for awhile.

So, Iceberg scraped down after one run and it was Luckyshot or Luckyshot for our fast morning laps. First to soften was the T2B - Snorting Elk Bowl, Sluiceway, Berry Patch, and best-of-the-day, all day, Lower E. The only Frontside run that had the right combo of consolidation, skier grooming, and soft snow was Showtime. It was a flurry of fast T2Bs and Showtimes for the Amigos. As the ski legs are in winter shape, there was no stopping. Three strong skiers finished off the last of the smooth untracked on Exterminator 😃 and left it an unconsolidated, lumpy mess. And four grinning faces looked up at the huge, perfect, bumps of Lower E to finish our day.

My house still isn’t painted.

Kkz

Forecast
It might be sunny tomorrow morning, it might be cloudy, it’ll be warm, and there might be some light rain in the afternoon *throws up hands - throws in the proverbial towel*. The rest of the week looks warm and rainy. Next sunday, monday, tuesday is the next forecast teaser of good ski weather, or house painting. Temper with the accuracy of the long range forecast lately and you’re back in one-day-ahead-get-up-early weather verification. Get it if you can.

No Fools

A boy and his mountain

A boy and his mountain

Tomorrow is April Fools Day. Normally I’m a good fool, but there was no fooling around in picking today as the best weather of the week. It was tough watching the rain, wet snow turned to rain, and wet rained on snow turn to ice as the weekly weather coaster rolled along. The one bright spot, literally, was today, so we nabbed it. Clear blue sky and the snow blazed white in the morning sun. Icy rain crust was waiting for heat, so we blasted the obligatory hard, fast groomers for an hour. That was enough as the surface thawed quickly on the sunny aspects.

The non-sunny slopes remained breakable rain crust scattered with chicken, and cow heads. And remained that way all day. But once the sunny stuff softened, the game was “look for smoothness and drop in”. Gondy Line, Exterminator, and Valley/Valley/Sluiceway/Berry Patch/Lower E. Subtle variations kept us in untracked all day. For the most part. I’ve never seen so many slush-ball rollers as littered some slopes today. Every little cliff, steep, and tree was dropping plops of snow that rolled downhill and froze in place becoming chicken, goat, and the occasional cow head. Having done extensive research on these runs the last couple months, it took just a slight alteration of your line in the right direction to get back into the untracked. In one area, a secret stash hiding in plain sight, the sound of slicing the smooth, untracked, now-soft rain crust, made a noise I’ve never heard. Somewhere in the combination of breaking crushed glass and water skiing on a wind chime. And so we skied the deep boot-top slop over and over.

Lower Exterminator was in prime shape all day. All 3 of out T2B runs ended on Lower E. As easy and smooth as thigh deep moguls get. That was how the Frontside should have been instead of crunchy lumps that turned instantly to too-soft slop. Kids these days. Not a mogul skier among them, but it was nice they left these perfect bumps just for us old ones. 

Kkz

Forecast

Temperatures will remain warm overnight, but radiation cooling will refreeze the hill. Probably some light precip/rain as well. If it thaws, and you can see (overcast predicted), there will be some more consolidation for your skiing pleasure. Temps drop on sunday bringing frozen mayhem again. Monday looks clear-ish, however temperatures may not rise quickly enough to thaw the slop. Only one way to find out…..

Northwest Perfect

It’s spring in the northwest. That means lots of snow. And it’ll turn heavy shortly after the sun hits it. For us early risers, it was perfect.

I’ve mentioned many times how learning to ski at Crystal makes you a good, strong skier. Probably better than you think you are. Reference years ago on a cat skiing trip in Colorado powder with a cat full of pro patrollers and Aspen instructors. In the light Colorado snow, we were always the first down and took the steepest, tightest line. So today, we skied a morning of boot-top new that would send most skiers to the bar in their furry après ski boots. And it was great.

Especially Campbell Basin. Get it before the blazing sun bakes it. We worked our way skier’s right of the chair, dropping in when the untracked called. Chutes .5, 1.9, 3, Hamburger Chutes, Ropeline Chutes all succumbed. I’d already dropped a layer of warmth and by the time we got to Upper K2 it was really warm again. Ski with NW Authority in the untracked and it was great. Try to ski someone else’s track and it was work. Three of us down Old School Cisco was a hoot.

In typical Spring at Crystal fashion, there’s no spring corn snow. The continuing morning refreshers turn to glop after awhile. And then pack down hard. We compensated with momentum and power for a few runs and then turned to the long, fast realms of T2Bs. Berry Patch Right earned groomer of the day and Lower E won bump run of the day.

I had to pull the plug early as the unconsolidated mush took control of every run and the groomers turned hard as the soft, wet snow packed in. But early is relative when you’ve got more vertical before noon than most skiers get all day.

Go early (just not in front of me, please) and go often.

Kkz

Forecast

It’s spring and the weather is a tough call. Tuesday through thursday will have some precip. With snow levels either just above or just below Crystal, the type of precip could go either way. Friday looks warm and sunny. I was going to say the weekend looks sunny, but the updates say warm and light rain. Look one day out and be ready to go. There’s not much time left.