Sunday, January 25, 2015
Grab It While You Can
People, are you kidding me??
Almost an inch and a half of rain fell on the mountain passes on Friday as the freezing level climbed up and up and up, so the two awesome local groomers, Nick at Cabin Creek and Mike at Stevens Pass, got to work. They were out all night at their respective ski areas, dealing with slush and running water and lake-like puddles, but they turned the slushy mushy mess Mother Nature had left them into excellent spring skiing ... in January.
If they're going to work that hard on the trails, the least I can do is ski on them. On Saturday I went to Stevens Pass for some up-and-down hill work. There is a certain ethereal mist-ical beauty about skiing in the rain: snow, mountains, trees, sky, all a thousand dreamy shades of green and gray and black. At least, that's what I tell myself when my only option is skiing in the rain.
The coverage is still good and the skiing was beautiful. I worked the hills, doing six 30-minute repeats of rolling terrain. There were a couple of groups practicing their snowplows on the downhills, I guess; they completely demolished the track and left berms of soft mushy snow across the trail. No matter; I won't expect perfect conditions at the Birkie, so this was good practice.
Stevens is a long drive for me, but there is something magical about that meandering drive home along the single-lane highway, all snug and warm in my dry clothes, Genticorum on my CD player, rain streaming down my windows, my mug of hot chai and my sandwich at the ready. Especially after a hard week at work, it restores my soul.
Brian had reminded me that the Birkie is also all about big long hills, so on Sunday I headed to Amabilis, the biggest baddest hill around. I'm so lucky to have these two great skiing options available to me in such a lousy winter! I got a super-late start (delicious food and libations and an attentive waiter at Bastille for my friend's birthday may have been a limiting factor; just sayin'), but it turned out to be a good idea anyway, because by the time I got there, the sun was sinking low, most of the mountain was in the shade, and the soft tracks were firming up.
Amabilis is making you work for its charms these days. First you hike:
Ah, but then you ski, and it is so beautiful up there, it's more than worth the effort.
The sun was shining, the freezing level hovered at about 11,500 feet, and the temperature was thinking about 50. I picked out an eleven-minute section of steady relentless uphill and did four of them, so appreciative of the good solid tracks. I might have done five, but I didn't want to get caught on the mountain in the dark, so I headed down, very satisfied with the weekend's work.
Three more weekends left to train before the Birkie! Will the snow hold out, or will I be back on my roller skis? No way of knowing, but once again, I was grateful for one more weekend on the snow.