Two Weeks Deep into a Pacific Northwest Winter

Within the last two weeks, the Cascades received more than 8 feet of snow, creating a snowpack that more resembled mid-winter than pre-December conditions. With the Crystal Mountain opening, on November 11, I really felt like the new season had officially been ushered in. I’m getting really amped up for the upcoming season, one during which I hope to really push the limits of what has and can be done with a snowboard.

There was excitement in the air, as people waited eagerly for the lifts to start spinning at Crystal. Since Crystal was the first resort to open in the area, it was inundated with
both local and Seattle-based crowds, that took lap after lap on the lower mountain.

Joe, Chris, and I were looking to get to parts of the mountain that were a bit less accessible, so we skinned out to the upper mountain and took advantage of vast untracked powder fields, which we had the pleasure of breaking in for the first time of the season. Our plan was to progress in a northerly direction throughout the day. We moved across the hill, getting first tracks on Sunnyside, Green Valley, Northway Peak and morning glory bowl, before returning via lucky shot to the base lodge and celebrating with our friends.


My Lonely track down Green Valley


Making first tracks down the Northway Chute (Photo by Chris Lyles)

After that day-long taste of steep, waist-deep Cascadian champagne, we had to go out and get some more. Over the years, I’ve ridden all over and deep into the Crystal Backcountry. I had always eyed an aesthetic line that is a northeast-facing couloir. We decided that Friday, November 13, would be the perfect opportunity to tackle that line. Our (Dan’s, Scott’s and my) objective was quite the distance– we skinned over two passes and five miles just two reach our line. Now, I have had many deep days throughout my life, but this was the deepest POW I’ve ever ridden, with (I kid you not) neck-deep snow. It was so thick and heavy out there, that we had no choice but to straight-line through the narrow chute. It was a long day, but definitely worth the effort… and a day that I’ll remember forever.


Our line is in the center of the pic (Photo by Scott Stugelmeyer)


Im in there somewhere. (Photo by Dan Howell)


Yeah it was that deep (Photo by Scott Stugelmeyer)

With a forecast of more blue skies, Dan, Scott, and I decided to head out to Mt. Rainier the next day, Saturday, to ride another line we’d been eying for a while, deep in the Tatoosh Range. As we climbed between two massive rock towers, we contemplated the aesthetic south face of Castle Mountain ahead. We switchbacked up the steep slopes and were on the summit in no time, looking down at endless possibilities of terrain to tackle later in the season. Soon we were dropping into knee deep powder turns on the steep face. These epic turns were followed by more thigh-deep powder as we rode through steep, old-growth forest all the way down to the now-closed seasonal road.


Getting our first look at Castles south Face (Photo by Dan Howell)


Dan drops in first (Photo by Scott Stugelmeyer)


Making turns with castle in the background (Photo by Scott Stugelmeyer)

After taking a few days off, it was time to get back out. A quick phone call to Drew convinced him to head out towards Crystal Mountain. Wednesday, November 18’s forecast called for cloudy skies, but we were stoked to find blue skies above the clouds, as we skinned into Silver Basin with our attention set upon the Silver King.

The Silver King is the high point of the area, and the crown of the resort-controlled “Southback” and we wanted to get tracks down it before it was turned over to ski patrol for the remainder of the season. With high winds our tracks quickly refilled as we dropped our first run into Silver basin only to head up again, and put tracks down Hourglass off the aggressive North face.


Skinning out to the King (photo by Drew Tabke)


Dropping into Hourglass (photo by Drew Tabke)


Drew ripping up the lower apron

Its crazy to think this is only November and we are in full on winter mode here in the Cascades. Let’s hope it keeps dumping for the rest of the season!

For a more indepth look at these trips and more click here


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