With a cold snap in effect, and recent heavy snowfall, Dan, Chris and I headed to Crystal Mountain to access some backcountry snow.
We left Seattle around 6am with a temp around 28°. The web told us that it was currently 1° in the Crystal Mountain parking lot. We hoped the temp would rise. The drive out was long due to snowy roads from Seattle all the way to the ski area. It was still in single digits as we left the parking lot to go ski. Ski patrol told us there were a few sloughs on Saturday, but avy danger was low. They also told us that there was zero chance of precip (which directly conflicted with the 50% change the NWS forecast.) It ended up snowing a bit while we were out, and the temp was still only 8° when we returned to the car.
The skin in is fairly easy and uneventful. We skinned under the Quicksilver chair at the ski area, then you go through the woods and over the lake to the Basin. (Not grandmother's house.) The upper basin looked really steep from below, but after skiing it, I would say it was a mild black diamond run.
We made a decision on our first runs not to skin to the top and ski the main/middle portion of the bowl. We instead traversed out to skier's left and had a run down there. Turning in the deep powder was difficult for me. And I really had to stay pointed downhill if I wanted to keep moving as the snow was slow. My first run was uneventful and made me feel good that I didn't fall, but no so great, as I wasn't having an easy time with the conditions.
Dan and Chris agreed that the first run was a bit short and wanted to reach the top of the ridge for the second run. I agreed, although I knew it would be just more distance I may be struggling to ski down. Skinning up to the top seemed more tiring, even though it was not that much further. Perhaps it was all the time we spent outside in single digit (negative?) temps? On the way to the top, there were 11 people ahead of us. (The Silver Basin probably saw 30+ skiers/boarder on Sunday.) We thought there might be competition for lines and crowding. However, in the last 50' of vertical to the ridge, there were 30mph sustained winds. No longer was the condition light powder, but wind blown and crusty. Dan reached the ridge first and tried to hide in the trees from the wind. I arrived and started my transition. When Chris arrived Dan took off to make room for him. I waited until Chris was mostly transitioned and I headed down. The first few turns on the windblown were predictable and decent. Below that the slope transitioned back into deep powder where I fell a few times. I met up with the guys and we decided that going back to the car was a good idea. (It also appeared that most of the others who came out to the basin felt that way as the crowds disappeared after our second run. We then skied out and back to the car.
Unfortunately for me, this was a reminder of how difficult it is for me to ski backcountry powder. I am definitely getting better at it, but it is not easy for me. I feel that next time I need to be a bit more aggressive and I will ski better.
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