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Early-Season Skiing Found with Yukon Trading Company Avalanche Course

You know those times we all live for? Like hang­ing out with friends in the moun­tains… Well that’s one of my favorite parts about this time of year. For the past three years I’ve had the priv­i­lege of lead­ing a pri­vate avalanche course for our friends at Yukon Trad­ing Com­pa­ny. What a great com­pa­ny! I mean come on — they pay for avalanche edu­ca­tion for their employ­ees and it’s on the clock! So, when Ryan from YTC called me in Novem­ber to set up this year’s course, I was excited.

The YTC gang: all smiles, and lots of col­or. Did I men­tion YTC reps Mar­mot out­door gear among oth­er great com­pa­nies. Well this just means these folks are always dressed to impress. Dal­las Glass photo

The ear­ly sea­son here in the Cas­cades has left much to be desired as far as snow­pack goes. While ski areas strug­gle to open their doors for the hol­i­day sea­son, even the back­coun­try enthu­si­asts are becom­ing frus­trat­ed. But when all else fails in WA, folks in the know head to one place: Mt Rainier. With the high­est year-round trail­head in the Wash­ing­ton Cas­cades, if any­where has snow it’s Mt Rainier. And that’s pre­cise­ly where we went.

Ready to go ski­ing? These folks are. All packed up to head to the snow. Dal­las Glass photo

Ryan secured a house for all of us in the sleepy moun­tain town of Ash­ford, WA, which is nes­tled at the base of Mt Rainier and only a few miles from the park’s entrance. This would be our base of oper­a­tions for our three days togeth­er. After break­fast each morn­ing, the din­ing table would be con­vert­ed into our class­room for a quick les­son and tour plan­ning ses­sion. Then we’d head to Par­adise at 5460’ on Mt Rainier’s south side to spend most of our day learn­ing in the snow. 

An AIARE Lev­el 1 avalanche course is intend­ed to pre­pare stu­dents to be com­pe­tent mem­bers of a tour­ing group with the sup­port of a local avalanche fore­cast cen­ter. So, we spent our field time learn­ing skills such as com­pan­ion res­cue, field obser­va­tions, group deci­sion mak­ing, and ver­i­fy­ing the avalanche fore­cast. But we can’t for­get why we take avalanche cours­es… we love to play in the moun­tains. For this group that meant ski­ing and riding. 

Mak­ing snow obser­va­tions while we skin up Edith Creek Basin. Using the sim­ple tools we have in our hands is often the best way to make snow obser­va­tions. Dal­las Glass photo

As I men­tioned this sea­son has been mea­ger here in the Cas­cades, and many of my friends have done noth­ing but com­plain about the lack of snow. Well that’s because they are in Seat­tle and not on Rainier! While not the great­est turns of my life, the group planned for and found won­der­ful ski­ing on Rainier’s south side. Don’t believe me….that’s fine. Stay inside and com­plain. That just means more for us. 

Reap­ing the rewards of great tour plan­ning. For those think­ing the ski­ing isn’t any good, just go ahead and assume this is Pho­to­shopped and we’ll keep ski­ing. Dal­las Glass photo

Spe­cial Thanks to Ryan and the great folks at Yukon Trad­ing Company!

~MM Guide Dal­las Glass