By: SIA’s Western US Sales & Marketing Manager, Dave Wray
June 18, 2013
So how do you write a season wrap up when your season really doesn’t end? Here in the Northwest our season just evolves and you adapt accordingly from spring to summer; climbing peaks for perfect corn and getting on top of one of our many iconic volcanoes. If that doesn’t work for you, then drop into the summer scene up at Hood and immerse yourself in today’s youth snow culture. Aside from some great terrain and some beautiful weather you’ll be surrounded by your target market at your viewing disposal. So for me, my season doesn’t end until the next one begins.
This season, things kicked off by being on snow with my kids before Halloween. Of course it was at Mt. Hood/Timberline because they only shut down for two weeks of the year for lift maintenance. Even though all we did was build a jump, sip some cocoa and throw snowballs, we made turns and caught air. That to me is good enough to call it day one. From there it’s really hard to remember ALL the days or even keep count of them. Instead I count the bad days or days I rode/skied in the rain. In the Northwest we do our best to study the freezing levels and precipitation so as to avoid those wet days and look for the drier Northwest flows that bring the cold fronts down from Alaska delivering the goods.
Fast forward from Halloween to the end of December (I guess November wasn’t that memorable, or at least I did my best to avoid the rain) and I’m at Mt. Bachelor for the Dirksen Derby with 300 other shredders. Mt. Bachelor delivered its typical dose of wind, more wind and snow. You don’t need much snow before Bachelor becomes an awesome playground of natural wind lips, hips and rolling terrain features and it’s not that steep so you always feel like a hero if you’ve got the right rhythm.
Christmas is usually spent in Bellingham with my in-laws. I’m lucky enough to have in-laws that ski and they’ve also been instructors at Mt. Baker for over 30+ years. That means that once presents are unwrapped and the leftovers are packed up, we head up to their cabin in Glacier, WA, some 18 miles from Mt. Baker Ski area. Our timing was perfect! We had five days on the mountain with a mix of snow, cold temps and partly sunny skies and again, no rain. The backcountry conditions were very stable and I saw people venturing way out to places that usually require more daylight and the longer days of spring. Fortunately for me I was able to sneak away from the family for a few laps on Shuksan Arm with great views of both Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan from the ridge. Imagine these two peaks photographed from the same ridge. Again, it’s not about the day, I can’t remember those, but I do remember the moments during the season, and this was one of those moments to remember.
Mt. Baker from Shuksan Arm
Mt. Shuksan from Shuksan Arm
As the New Year arrives I’m 110% focused on the SIA Snow Show and On-Snow Demo/Ski-Ride Fest. Immediately after that I’m heading back to Mt. Baker for the 28th annual Legendary Banked Slalom. More shots of Mt. Shuksan, more snow, some variable conditions and a slew of locals, legends and pros round out the scene as usual. I went non-stop with my kids for four days of first to last chair. Worked and tired we went home without duct tape, but winning for me is the time I had on the hill with my boys shredding everything in sight.
For me February is a time to regroup, start planning and forecasting for SIA 2014, and stay close to home. My good friend fired me up for a quick local tour around Government Camp, OR. It was a very windy, snowy day with big drifts and difficult access to most trail head parking lots. That is until the snow plows arrived. By 7 AM the ODOT (OR Dept. of Transportation) plow arrives and clears the way to the trail head. Trail breaking was slow through the new snow, but the wind was starting to back off and we were already getting pockets of sunshine as we made our way to the ridge. Here we go again. It wasn’t about the turns, the powder or the face shots: what I remember most was the approach and the amazing light that shined through as the snow showers came and went. It was one of those times where I felt like we out-smarted Mother Nature, dodged a storm and stayed at lower elevations while the ski areas around Mt. Hood got hammered with wind-driven snow and the chairlifts shut down.
The Easter tradition has always been the Easter egg hunt at White Pass Ski Area at High Camp. It has slowly become the powder hunt for my older son and me. Here we are on top of Hogs Back Ridge with Mt. Rainer in the background. White Pass recently doubled their terrain, providing easy access to this area and a real simple traverse back to the saddle and ski area. It’s a true breakthrough when you get to experience a short hike in the backcountry with some low angle powder with your kids. The goal here is to groom him to be my touring partner in search of powder. So far we are heading in the right direction.
As a last blast to the season we close down White Pass Ski Area for a visit to the 3rd annual Rhythm and Bruise event. It is part BMX, part banked slalom and part terrain park. The trick is to have more rhythm and less bruise. So, if you can find the flow and land the transitions right, you’ll have a smooth line and the judges just might like you and your style. Yes, it’s a judged event and some just try to survive while others are busting out switch 7’s and laid out backflips.
Then there’s me…I go for the huge old school Method Air at the judges, hip and buckle on the landing and blow the whole run. Fourth place isn’t that bad…except when there are only four old dudes in your “Cruiser” category. No matter what, it’s all about fun and a great local community of 150 people from around the Northwest. It’s events like these that keep snowboarding fun and attainable for the average shredder, while delivering a great vibe and local scene.
Once the ski areas close I set my sights on one of the many volcanoes here in this part of the Ring of Fire. Of course I like to top out on a new one each spring, but I take what I can get, and Mt. St. Helens is a convenient and quick assault from Portland. Last Thursday I found myself sitting at the Cougar Bar and Grill at 5:55pm with 5 minutes left to go in their “Crappy Happy Hour”. After a quick beer, burger and fries we are parked at the trailhead with misty rain and occasional showers. The forecast was calling for a break in the weather but with a 4 AM wakeup call and on the trail by 5 AM it didn’t look promising.
NOAA did deliver in their forecast, and it was clear sailing most of the morning. However, as we approached the tree line the clouds started to fill in from below, and before we were even half way up the summit had disappeared. Two hours later as we reached the summit push we broke through the fog bank and were looking at Rainer, Hood, Jefferson, Adams…all the peaks now floating above the seas of clouds. We snapped a few photos, checked our water levels, power down some meat and cheese and drop in. 700 feet of sweet slushy corn, and then it was a sloppy mess all the way down. Back at the van I grab the celebratory cold one and kick back while the rest of my crew makes their way down. There’s nothing technical about skiing down St. Helens, but it will almost always throw you a curve ball with visibility.
At this point there’s nothing left but summer camping up on Mt. Hood, which is always full of action. Some of that action this summer will include the second annual Rat Race taking place on July 7th at Timberline. Once again I seem to be drawn to these local, community-based events that celebrate the good times and good friends that surround snowboarding. This event is put on by the awesome crew at Drink Water and it’s all to benefit http://water.org/ , an organization that helps bring fresh clean drinking water (something we completely take for granted in this country) to people impoverished areas of the world.
So that about wraps up my season. If you ask me how many days I got, which is how most people measure the success of their season, I might have to guess it was 35 days. But the number of days doesn’t tell the true story, it’s the days you remember and the amazing stories you share about those days that make it a season. So….based on the stories I just told, I think I had a pretty damn good season and I feel so damn lucky to work in this industry.