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Jay and Andy Visit Seattle

Back in October, Jay, Andy and I randomly picked a weekend for them to come out to Seattle for a ski trip. It seemed like we had to wait forever, but that weekend finally arrived.

Jay arrived on Wednesday night. The plan was to pick up Andy from the airport on Thursday around noon and head up to the pass for some night skiing. Unfortunately, when we woke up on Thursday, we had a message from Andy saying that he had some problems making the connecting flights and wasn't going to get in until later (after four plane rides!) Jay and I quickly packed our gear and headed up to Alpental to ski. Alpental was closed for avalanche work and to repair a chair lift. The chairs were dragging through the deep snow and broke! We drove down the road to Summit and skied Central and West for a while. Alpental eventually opened back up and we snuck in a few runs off Chair 2 before heading back to Seattle to pick up Andy.

Friday morning started dark and early. I had very low expectations for the day as the weather was calling for warm temps and very high winds. I couldn't have been more wrong. It turned out to be the best day that any of us have ever had skiing. There was some debate about whether it might even have been the most fun we've ever had doing anything. The upper mountain had been closed for a couple days previously and had around 2 feet of untouched powder. But the snow under that was pretty soft too and you could easily sink in above your knees or even to your waist.

To make the day even better, we had a semi-professional ski photographer, Bernard, leading us around the mountain and taking pictures. I had won this photography day during the internal Microsoft giving campaign auction last fall. Bernard was a terrific mountain tour guide and took us to huge fresh stashes of powder all the way into the afternoon when you would think everything would be tracked out. We're not going to grace the cover of a ski magazine anytime soon, but we did get some fun shots. Bernard has posted four of them on his site. Jay is the first picture, I'm the second and third (right before a fall?), and Andy is the fourth one. He'll post 20-30 more for us to look at and then we'll each get three big prints.

I had a lot of doubts around this trip since weather in the Cascades can be sketchy. It's hard to pick a good ski day more than a few days in advance. To not only have the best weather I've ever seen, but to also share it with two great friends with a photographer following us around was absolutely incredible. Superlatives fail me. It was a real blessing.

After a couple beers at the Snorting Elk and shoveling the car out from under the 9-12" of fresh snow, we scurried back home. Matt Costa was playing Seattle and we had tickets. The show at El Corazon was sold out and the room was really warm with all the people crammed in there, but the show was awesome. Matt had a good mix of songs from his new album and favorites from the first one.

We didn't get to bed on Friday until after 2am so we weren't in a rush to wake up in the morning. With the predicted warm weather/rain looming, we decided to take the day off from skiing. Instead, we took a tour at the Red Hook Brewery and then headed into Seattle. We visited the Experience Music Project (great!), walked around the base of the Space Needle, and walked through Pike Market.

Sunday morning found us in the car again. I had hoped to show them Stevens Pass, but US 2 was closed due to avalanches. We went back to Crystal where they hadn't had any new snow since Friday. We tried a few of the runs from Friday, but the snow was chopped up, wet, and heavy making it almost impossible for us to ski. The high point of the day was finally skiing Powder Bowl. The first time I visited Crystal, I pointed to that bowl and said I would ski it. You can see Powder Bowl in the background of this picture taken in November of 2006. Notice the title. Every time since then, I have come up with an excuse to avoid it. Andy, Jay and I nailed the run twice and it was a terrific feeling. That run combined with Bear Pits was the steepest terrain that I have ever skied. This photo from Bernard* (taken on a different day) sort of shows how steep it is, but you really can't grasp it until you're standing at the top looking down.

After dinner at Red Robin with Tim and Chelsea, I had to take Jay and Andy back to the airport. Ben Franklin said that "Fish and house guests stink after three days," but I wish I had more time with them. I miss hanging out with those guys, but thankfully we'll be reunited in Vermont in two weeks! Thanks for coming out to visit! My sky-high hopes for the weekend were exceeded in ways I could never have imagined.

The full photo gallery is available here.

[UPDATE] I wrote "Thursday morning" instead of "Friday morning." Thanks for the correction, Mom.

*[UPDATE] Thanks to Bernard for pointing out this isn't actually a photo of Powder Bowl. That photo was taken at the top of the Throne.