Studio711

Skiing

Mt. Baker Chair

There is a ski lift chair being used as a bench on our back patio, and, in our guest bathroom, there’s a photo of that chair when it was part of Chair #1 at Mt. Baker. It’s a fun piece of history and nostalgia. I wrote about the process of buying the old chair and then receiving a photo of the chair back in 2008.

Fast forward to 2017 and I got contacted on my Instagram woodworking account by an artist who had seen the photo in that post and did a pen and ink drawing of it. She was asking if I could point her to the original photographer so she could give her credit. The photo came from the wife of another guy at work who bought one of the chair. Yada yada yada, we’ve lost touch over the years after I changed groups and he left the company, but I found him on Facebook and sent him a message. We were able to connect all the dots and put the artist in touch with the photographer. Yay for the internet!

You can see the drawing on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb-i6iVnt2a/ and now you can also think about this story every time you use the guest bathroom at my house. You’re welcome.

Washington Ski Areas Average Opening Dates

We had an early start to the ski season around here this year. Snoqualmie is the lowest elevation and is still waiting for enough snow, but everyone else is open. Years ago I made a chart of the opening dates on the Seattle PI blog. I’ve updated it this year with the help from some fellow skiers at work.

Whistler Baker   Stevens Summit Crystal
2006 17-Nov 13-Nov 17-Nov 2-Dec 15-Nov
2007 17-Nov 29-Nov 18-Dec 15-Dec 1-Dec
2008 26-Nov 14-Dec 18-Dec 11-Dec 27-Nov
2009 14-Nov 12-Nov 19-Nov 14-Nov 11-Nov
2010 19-Nov 20-Nov 1-Dec 25-Nov 19-Nov
2011 18-Nov 18-Nov 19-Nov 19-Nov 18-Nov
2012 17-Nov 21-Nov 20-Nov 8-Dec 21-Nov
2013 16-Nov 21-Nov 16-Nov 10-Jan 20-Nov
2014 22-Nov 20-Dec 20-Dec 28-Dec 21-Nov
2015 19-Nov 19-Nov 4-Dec 11-Dec 21-Nov
2016 23-Nov 25-Nov 29-Nov 6-Dec 25-Nov
2017 17-Nov 16-Nov 16-Nov 2-Dec 15-Nov
Average 18-Nov 24-Nov 28-Nov 8-Dec 20-Nov

Skiing With Jay

Twelve years ago, Jay patiently taught me how to ski. I had gone a couple times in my life before that, but he took the time to really get me going. I still look like a drunken ogre awkwardly sliding down the mountain, but at least I can get down most slopes without falling and I can enjoy it. We’ve spent a LOT of time riding a lift together since then, but after I moved away in 2006, those chats got cut way down. This past weekend, he came out for a visit and we spent three straight days skiing. The difference between now and 12 years ago is, well, 12 years of aging. We’re not as young as we used to be and we were reminded of that with each run.

Jay’s original plan was to come ski Thursday through Saturday. That ended up getting changed to Saturday through Monday and it’s a good thing because it rained all the way to the top of the mountain on Thursday. On Friday night, it dumped snow and we had about 10″ of fresh snow on Saturday. We spent the day at Crystal and had a great time with some pretty good powder runs. Day 2 was also at Crystal, and even though there wasn’t any fresh snow, it had stayed cold since the previous one so it was still fluffy and fun. With Jay skiing beside me, I finally explored the Right Angle Trees run. It’s a very infrequently skied double black diamond area that I’m hesitant to explore without a partner. It took us a while to pick our way down the run but there was literally nobody else around. At one point we just plopped down on the side of the hill for five minutes and enjoyed the silence.

I always take Jay to Crystal when he comes because it’s my favorite ski hill, but I figured it would be fun to show him something else. We headed to Stevens Pass for our third day of skiing. This was a Monday so the crowd was very small. There were maybe a couple inches of fresh snow and we found a couple spots off the runs that were still deep and fresh for a few turns.

I owe big thank yous to Jay for flying all the way out here, and to Juliet and Tyla who watched our kids the whole weekend while we played. That’s a lot to ask and without them, this wouldn’t have happened.

Crystal Mountain Conditions

The entire west coast is having a very tough ski season. Total precipitation has been close to normal but we’ve had above average temperatures all winter. The meteorological features that are freezing the east coast are baking the west coast. The last couple years my plan has been to just pick a couple great ski days instead of going more often throughout the winter. Finally I decided that if I was going to wait for that to happen this year, I probably wouldn’t go at all. So last week I took a day off in the middle of the week and headed to Crystal to survey the carnage.

The first thing I noticed was that there was almost no one on the road with me. Even for a midweek ski day, the road is usually a line of cars in a long parade to the mountain. This time I only saw one other car. I arrived at the parking lot 10 minutes before the lifts opened and easily parked right in the front lot which I have NEVER done before even when arriving an hour before the lifts opened.

The base area had more grass than snow and the ride up the gondola didn’t change that much until we hit about 5500-6000 feet. However, once we got to the top, the coverage was actually pretty good, or at least it was better than I was expecting. Once the snow softened up, you could venture off the groomed trails if you took some care. Rock skis are a must as it’s nearly impossible to ski to the bottom of the runs without dodging rocks and there are places where you have a to carefully follow a path of snow that is just a few feet wide. Nobody is allowed (or able) to ski to the bottom of the mountain. You have to download on the gondola. Only the lifts on the top half of the mountain are open.

It’s not a pretty situation but everyone I rode the lift with was having a good time and enjoying it for what it was. The skies were perfectly clear and the views were amazing. It was worth the lift ticket just to remember how incredible the mountains look on a day like that. Sure, this isn’t a normal year, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. You just have to go with the right mindset.

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