Sunday, March 3, 2013

Echo Ridge Nordic - 02.26-28.13

We had some time to get away and decided on trying out Echo Ridge. A Living Social coupon sealed the deal for accommodations and we were off. Our drive out was planned so we would stop in Leavenworth for lunch and then Mirabelle would nap between there and Manson. Arriving in Leavenworth to our favorite lunch spot, the Munchen Haus, closed had us spending more time there then we wanted. And as hard as Mirabelle tried, she didn't fall asleep until we were near Knapps tunnel which had us driving around before we arrived at the hotel. So we didn't end up getting any skiing in the first day, but due to the daily fee of the location that may have been for the better.

The next day started well with breakfast baked goods from the Red Apple before making the 30 minute drive up to Echo Ridge. I hadn't seen the grooming report for two days and wasn't sure what to expect. They were clearly getting close to the end of season, but it was difficult to determine how close. And they were still grooming almost all of the runs, so it had to be good...right? The drive up involves leaving town and heading through orchards until reaching the Echo Valley downhill ski area, which seems like a nice little family place to ski. Then the road turns to dirt and continues up switchbacks with some snow drifts and steep drop offs thrown in. We arrived to bluebird skies and parked in the lower parking lot expecting perhaps to only ski the green runs out of the lower lot. The goal was to ski those runs in the morning and return to the van for lunch and head out again in the afternoon. But we would see what Mirabelle might want from the day.

After bundling up Mirabelle in the Chariot and handing her a churro, we were ready to go. It appeared the trails were groomed the previous day and there was about a centimeter of fresh snow on top as well. Conditions in the track were a touch icy going uphill. And pulling the extra forty pounds or so behind me kept me out of the track all morning. The trails were pretty mellow and we were having a good time so when we completed the trails out of the lower lot I asked Mirabelle if she wanted to keep going and she said "yes!"

We headed up the connecting trail to the upper lot which was the only blue we would do for the day and then did all but one of the green trails out of the upper lot. At some point Mirabelle had fallen asleep which allowed us to get in about eight miles of skiing for the day. The conditions we found on the upper trails were equal if not better to the lower trails and we really had a good time. The upper trails offered more views including down to Lake Chelan and over to the Stuart Range.
We skied back down the steeper blue trail to the car and had lunch.

After lunch we donned snowshoes and walked away from the parking lot thirty meters or so to build a snowman. Mirabelle at first enjoyed snowshoes, but as the terrain became more uneven she had difficulty not stepping on her own feet and was starting to lose patience with them. The end result is her memory of snowshoeing is positive. After snowman construction Mirabelle did a lap of the parking lot on her skis before we opted to head back to town.

The next morning it was raining in town, but I had hopes of snow level occurring before the ski lot and I was right. This time we headed up to the upper lot to get on some blue runs. Snow was coming down steady, but not very heavy as we geared up and left the parking lot. Since we weren't sure on conditions we started out on the only green we had not yet done and if we found it to be too icy we would turn around and repeat some of the trails from the previous day. While the grooming done the previous afternoon had hardened up overnight, the fresh snow falling on top made conditions pretty good in most places with some more sun soaked parts being more icy than treed sections. This trail would have offered some nice views, but due to the snowfall, there was limited visibility. An interesting thing this trail did offer was what I'd call the magic white carpet. Some areas where there was no snow around except for the eight foot wide (16" deep) swath in which we were skiing on. The surrounding hillsides looked almost like summer. Turn the corner on the ridge, and you were back in winter wonderland complete with better trail conditions.

We arrived at the end of our green trail and opted to take blues back. These were pretty fun and not nearly as steep as the lot to lot trail and were not significantly more difficult than the green we had been on. I feel like they did offer more terrain variation though. Somewhere on our way back Mirabelle said she was done, so we headed back to the car sticking to blue runs and finishing our morning with about 3.5 miles under our feet. The snow was still coming down, but it was around the time we wanted to leave for home. We thought about staying another night, but opted not to and started heading down the mountain for home.

This was a really fun outing and reminded both of us why we like Nordic skiing so much. Mirabelle had a great time too! We had a lot of fun and so no one else on the trails while we were out. (We saw some people in the lot, and the groomer about to go to work, but we had the trails to ourselves.) It was really fun and a great location. We are thinking of making this into an annual trip.