Snowmaggedon. Snowpocalypse. Stock up on canned corn and vodka, cause we’re about to get whomped.
So went the mainstream media reports last Thursday as arctic air preppers swarmed the aisles of Fred Meyer to prepare for a predicted two or three inches of snow in Bellingham, WA. I was stumped until the grey-haired fellow behind me in line announced the source of our shopping cart gridlock.
“Media’s got them all in a frenzy,” he said with a coy smile.
“Two inches? Doesn’t sound so bad. I’m just trying to get ready for a weekend up at Mt. Baker,” I replied.
But not just any weekend: Legendary Banked Slalom Weekend. The 33rd edition, to be precise. It had been snowing at Baker. An unusually cold Arctic flow had us praising Ullr through the start of the week, with temps dipping into the low teens and sunshine providing ample opportunity to ride the Baker backcountry.
It was snowing everywhere. Tahoe, Salt Lake, back east, people were getting it. So, attendance was a little thin this year, as folks stayed home to get it, as they should. But that still meant a line of cars out Highway 542. Terje was there. So was Rip Zinger. And Blauvelt, Blair, Temple, Karleen Jeffery, Spencer O’Brien, and on and on and on, braving the cold and icy course, and stomping out a few lines above the lifts.
Frigid air lingered through the weekend, sending wind-chill values near zero as ridgetops glowed orange with windblown snow in the morning sun. Unheard of cold for the LBS. Even more reason to hit the warm up tent, get lost in a crowd of reunions as the tribe gathered there at the top of Chair 5, in the shadow of Shuksan Arm, go on a warming hike with friends. You could hear the racecourse even if you couldn’t see it—it was icy, man, and challenging, and just as it should be. Maybe that’s why Seth Wescott from Maine won for Pro Men, while Banff-ite Audrey Hebert took it for the Women. Both hail from colder climes that tend to get a bit of ice. Then Harry Kearney, in second, lives in Glacier, WA, but he cut his teeth in Telluride’s thin air and thin snowpack. What about Karleen Jeffery? She just rips, ice or no ice. My ice-tuned theory may start to fall apart if I go too deep down the results list (see WA lifer Blair Habenicht in 3rd for Pro Men) so I’ll just leave it there.
And now, with the tribe dispersed, it has begun snowing again, right down to sea level. As of Tuesday, there’s nine inches on my porch, 19 inches new up at Baker. The forecast says continued cold fronts and continued precipitation. A few folks have stuck around, getting their post-race powder fill. In Bellingham, they closed Fred Meyer last night.
Snowmaggedon. Snowpocalypse. Let it snow. Praise Ullr, and praise this mercurial anomaly.