After spending much of the last four months mountain biking, the transition to fall has brought new goals and exploration ideas. Hiking has become a large part of my weekend plans to scout zones for backcountry skiing because I didn't, and don't plan to, buy a pass anywhere this year. With the expected increase in backcountry skiers this year, this pre-season scouting will be critical to staying safe and away from large crowds.
I was up on Mount Rainier and in the Mount Baker backcountry a week or so ago and there are a bunch of different zones to explore there, some open bowls, more forested areas, and the more obvious zones on the glaciers like the Muir Snowfield on Rainier. It's really exciting to see all the possibilities, just need some snow to fill in the gaps. It'll be interesting to study this snow pack, it'll certainly be much different than the snowpack I studied back in Vermont and New Hampshire.
I know this is just the beginning of a much longer process to understand the mountains, snowpack, and weather patterns here in the PNW. It's all starting in my living room with Google Earth, CalTopo, NWAC, and a little touch of imagination. Reading through the archives on NWAC is becoming a nightly activity, the reports are pretty good bedtime stories, lots of pictures and diagrams. One thing I've learned already is that it's not all about the descent, the big question is, how do I get there to ski that, do it safely, and with the least exposure possible? There's quite a bit of risk analysis but it's better to be prepared and have multiple plans than simply winging it.
The start of my collection of zones to ski. Some small, some large, all need more up-close, in-depth research before my skis meet snow.
Alta Vista, Mount Rainier
Potential mini-golf tree zone
Short lines but lap-able, Golden Gate trail on right
Lower rock garden, very lap-able, could be really fun mini-golf zone
Low angle to tree line, steep switchbacks for return (left)
Steeper angle below tree line (left, in shade), funnels into a terrain trap
Potential low angle tree zone (left-middle), steep switchbacks for return (right)