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Ski Mountaineering 6

Where’s All The Good Snow?

Its fun­ny how a lit­tle bit of plan­ning can real­ly pay off. Most things in our lives are rushed and I won­der how many of them would be vast­ly improved with just a lit­tle bit of plan­ning. Din­ners, meet­ings, phone calls, emails…you get the idea. Slow­ing down and think­ing through what­ev­er task is at hand could vast­ly improve our effi­cien­cy and sat­is­fac­tion. I’d say this past weekend’s AIARE Lev­el 1 course found this expe­ri­ence to be incred­i­bly true. 

MM Guide Todd Blox­ham shows the group some of the fin­er points of sur­face snow obser­va­tions. Dal­las Glass photo

We’ve all been there; we wake up late, grab a cup of cof­fee, throw the skis/​boards in the car, dri­ve off to the trail­head, start hik­ing up to our favorite area, make our first run, and won­der why it wasn’t as good as we thought it would be. This snow stinks!” Man it’s all icy!” We should have just stayed in Seat­tle and played check­ers!” Ok, so maybe we wouldn’t have played check­ers, but you get the idea. With the epic lack of recent snow this sea­son I find that many of my ski friends are dis­en­chant­ed with the win­ter. They either can’t be con­vinced to leave the city, or if they do ven­ture into the moun­tains they return com­plain­ing about the ski con­di­tions. Now, I’ve been told that I’m over­ly opti­mistic about snow. I seem to be one of those sick indi­vid­u­als who thinks all snow is good snow and any day in the moun­tains is bet­ter than a day not in the moun­tains (no won­der I became a guide, huh?). That said I also find that with some plan­ning and a lit­tle bit of dis­cern­ment we can near­ly always find good safe snow to slide on. 

Sun­ny weath­er? Check. Moun­tain views? Check. Fun day ski­ing and rid­ing in the moun­tains? You bet! A lit­tle tour plan­ning helps the group find the good snow. Dal­las Glass photo

This weekend’s course was tasked with just such a chal­lenge. Hmmm, let’s think about the recent weath­er. A week ago it rained to around 7,000 feet and then this past week freez­ing lev­els dropped. You don’t need to be a snow geek to real­ize, that means an icy snow sur­face. Then late Fri­day night 1 – 2 inch­es of snow fell at Mt. Rainier. Not near­ly enough to keep my skis off the icy rain crust. Or is it? While our Lev­el 1 cours­es focus on iden­ti­fy­ing and avoid­ing the avalanche prob­lem, we also find that these same skills can help us find the good snow. So, with 1 – 2 inch­es of light snow on an icy crust, where is the good snow? The stu­dents spent a lit­tle time think through it, start­ed mak­ing a plan, and then imple­ment­ed the plan. Now, it wasn’t an epic ski day, but the stu­dents found some fun, play­ful, very enjoy­able snow to trav­el in for the day. With smiles on their faces, some nice smooth turns, and excit­ing views of Mt. Rainier we returned to our cars after a great day of skiing. 

I know what you’re think­ing; so where did you find the good snow? I can’t give away their secret stash­es now can I? I hope your New Year finds you out enjoy­ing the mountains!

~ MM Guide Dal­las Glass