The 4−1−1 on Baker Backcountry Skiing
Ever wanted to try backcountry skiing but didn’t know where to start? Ever wanted to explore new backcountry ski terrain but didn’t want to waste days stumbling around? Every wanted to refresh your avalanche education but didn’t want to take a whole new course? Well, join MM ski guide and avalanche instructor Dallas Glass as he updates us on his recent ski day with MM clients in the Mt Baker Backcountry and their visit to the Whiter Room.
“The Mt Baker backcountry has been my go-to playground this winter. With its insane amounts of snow, unending terrain, and incredible local ski culture, I find myself heading west on Hwy 542 every chance I get. So, when the MM office called and said we had some folks who wanted a day of guided backcountry skiing in the Baker area; needless to say, I was excited. Jordan and Chelsea are no strangers here at MM. They joined us last season for one of our Stevens Pass AIARE Level 1 courses. This year they were looking to expand their backcountry terrain and refresh a little of their avalanche skills. The Baker backcountry was the perfect place to do both.
Jordan entering the White Room on Herman Peak’s SE glades. Dallas Glass photo
Two weeks of sunny and warm weather here in the Northwest had left me wondering if we’d be hunting mid-winter corn in a region famous for its record amounts of powder. Well, Baker would not disappoint. On Wednesday before our trip the clear skies turned grey and winter returned! Over 18” of fresh had fallen in the Baker area by Saturday morning and some recent personal ski days told me that our avalanche problem would be localized. This meant game on!
Let’n the snow fly, Chelsea lays down first tracks on Herman Peak. Dallas Glass photo
As we put climbing skins on in the parking lot at Heather Meadows it was clear that the weather forecast of snow showers would be an understatement. Mother-nature had full on snow in store for us all day. While this would bring us killer powder, it also meant low visibility and that we’d be better off in the trees. After a short warm-up lap to get our skis under us, we headed for the SE glades of Herman Peak. As I watched Jordan ski from my lookout position, he completely disappeared; turn after turn Jordan entered what we like to call the White Room! Powder billowing up and over his shoulders, flowing past his waste; it was deep. Then down came Chelsea with a spectacular telemark performance, arcing graceful turns with streams of snow hanging in the air as she went. As I joined them at the lake below I saw two huge grinning faces. ‘What do ya think? Should we ski it again?’ I asked. ‘Absolutely!’ they replied. So up we went.
Finding the goods in Swift Creek, Jordan coming down toward the meadow. Dallas Glass photo
People were beginning to notice our tracks and smiles on Herman Peak; I guess the cat was out of the bag. Other skiers were heading up to ski in our tracks, so we turned our attention to a new area. After an observational lap in the upper Swift Creek drainage, a local favorite, we moved down canyon to set ourselves up for one last big lap. As I dropped in to scope the line, I couldn’t help but laugh. Yet again we’d grab untracked snow on an amazing line. I tucked into some trees to take pictures of Jordan and Chelsea as they one by one showed me how tele-ers take a beautiful sport and add another twist of art. We gathered in the meadow below with wearied legs and gladdened hearts. One last skin track up, and we’d point our skis toward home.
Adding a little bit of tele-art, Chelsea puts her knee to the ski. Dallas Glass photo
The snow hadn’t let up all day. Baker had shown us yet again why it is world renowned for its deep snow and spectacular terrain. We may not have been able to see any of the mountains with all the falling snow, but we were able to dig deep into their souls and allow their beauty to flow around our waist and over our head one turn after another.“
~ MM Guide Dallas Glass