Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heather Ridge Ski - 01.09.11

Dan and I tried to go out earlier in the week, but he realized he was going to return from Colorado too late to be able to head out the next day. We rescheduled for Sunday in the hopes of better snow to ski.

We read the reports and the telemetry and it wasn't too promising. Shallow powder on top of the rain crust was what we were seeing. Dan was skeptical. Stevens Pass ski area reported only two inches of snow on Saturday. But the telemetry was showing at least 6" when we talked, and that was for highway level (4000'.) I told him we should give it a go. So we planned to get to the parking lot at 8am to beat the resort opening at 9am.

It was 24°F and there were plenty of cars in the lot when we arrived, but most were for the resort. We passed a bunch of people putting on skins in the lot as we made our way to the trail. When we got there, there was a faint skin track from one person, and a couple of guys with a loose dog booting up the trail. I made quick time to pass them, and then tried to settle in to a slower pace. Dan told me he he wasn't sure he could keep pace with me, but I seriously tried to keep the pace sane. The going up the road was easy as it was packed down from yesterday's skiers. A few times the guy in front of us took short cuts, and a few times we followed. We caught him just before reaching Skyline Lake where we chatted with a couple who had spent the night up there. It took us 40 minutes to reach the lake. We heard the other skier mention he was headed to the other side of the lake to wake up his friend who spent the night.

Dan and I crossed the lake and headed up the other side. We had a few navigational issues, but finally found ourselves on the saddle looking at chute to descend. The snow had been getting deeper as we got higher and we were now standing in a fair amount of powder on top of the crust from this weeks rain. There were no signs of instability and I let Dan take the first run as I thought there might be a cliff or something in the chute. There wasn't and soon we were navigating our way through the trees to a more level area in the valley. The run started as nice powder, but on stronger turns and lower down the crust was encountered. It would throw you off a bit but nothing significant.

At the top of the run we eyed the open upper slopes of Tye Peak. When we finished our first run we attempted to find a skin track from Saturday that lead over in that direction. We did, and soon we were making our own track up the side of the mountain. Dan took over as we gained the ridge and crossed through a section of hard wind packed snow to our top out point, a patch of trees. This run was great with nice powder for most of the run with a few spots where we hit crust lower down. It was 11:30am, and we decided to have lunch before taking another run down Tye Peak.

Now that we had our track in, the skin up went even quicker. We opted to stop a little lower as we wanted a run further to skier's right and going up to the top of our first run would put us too far left. We transitioned as a lone skier passed us thanking us for the skin track. Then we had another great powder run down to the meadow before transitioning to skinning again.

Unfortunately we couldn't find a good up track and put one in ourselves for a bit. (More of a rising traverse actually.) This didn't go smoothly until we finally got under the boulder field and near our first run tracks. Then we located a skin track and followed it back to the saddle. A skin on run down to the lake and a skin back across the lake brought us to our last transition. We made quick time down the luge run and cut out down the open slopes a bit before returning to the road to speed out. Plenty of moving obstacles coming up and down the trail to avoid. We made it back to the car before 2pm to head back to Seattle.

Dan said this was his best day out this season and was really happy I convinced him to go. The runs were great, and we had first runs off the backside of the ridge, allowing us first turns on Tye Peak as well. By the time we were headed out Heather Ridge was fairly tracked out, with a few good pockets remaining.

My pics are here.

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