Jake Blauvelt, spray and pop on an afternoon hike above The Canyon.

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Mt. Baker 2022-2023

The Rhythm of the Cascades

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The Jetstream does what the Jetstream does.  

I try not to subscribe to any pre-season ponderings when it comes to weather. Heck, I don’t trust a forecast more than 24 hours out, most of the time. Because we can opine all we want about what might happen come winter, but in the end, you get what you get. And what you get, at Mt. Baker Ski Area, is usually pretty damn good.

I do, however, trust the data at 6 a.m., moving east up Washington 542 at a relaxed pace with coffee in hand, knowing I’ll arrive early enough to enjoy first tracks on a favorite hallway. I trust that many familiar faces will greet me, primed for another powder day.

Such is the rhythm of the Cascades. Moisture, we know, will appear. We do live in a temperate rainforest, after all. How much moisture is beyond the grasp of modern science, a lot of the time. And that’s magic.

It was a relatively benign November. A cold and wet December. Typical January. Good February. A middling miracle March. And a spring that sprung cold, once again. Could you have called it? While many resorts down south celebrated their biggest years ever, Mt. Baker Ski Area quietly stacked more than 600 inches of snow, again. You might call it average. I call it more than enough powder days to stay satiated. Powder days from bell to bell, as it were, filling in slowly due to cold temps, then stacking late.

Those cold December moments were some of the best in recent memory. Waist deep in the right spots, terrain still undulating and featured, the mountain ever-changing and allowing new eyes with each passing storm. Crowds moderated by a good year throughout the American West. And that one week as February turned to March really stood out, as a foot a day fell and lift lines were limited, fresh lines accessible from first chair till last. The 35th Legendary Banked Slalom returned with a beautiful Saturday session, getting everyone’s legs prepped for a spin through the natty halfpipe with pillows for breakfast. And April, well, the tap never seemed to shut off, with winter holding on until closing weekend. Did you see that one coming?

The beauty of it all is a connection to place. To nature’s rhythm, whatever that may be. Every year is different, every day is different, and that keeps it interesting here in one of the wettest places in North America. As systems move through, the Cascadian snowpack ebbs and flows, unlocking new features day by day. Early season gullies are replaced by mid-season pillows and late season panels, as Pacific flows unlock a fresh perspective day by day.

And after 15 years here, it still feels fresh—can still surprise with a new rendition of an old classic, or even a new-to-me lane that presents itself in plain sight. Such is the beauty of the Jetstream’s nuance, the wind, the trees and the rocks and the snow around here. A fresh take on the comfort of home.

Come to think of it, that’s the only thing you truly can predict as we move through the seasons: that, if we stay connected, we will find what we are looking for. A sense of discovery can remain in familiar ground. With enough time dedicated to that two-lane pilgrimage, to share Mt. Baker’s bounty with close friends becomes a given, riding the Jetstream’s rhythm.


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