“I’m in the Trees!”

After an almost month-long hiatus, winter has returned to the Inland Pacific Northwest. The spring-like weather just needs to wait its turn.

After a fun evening at a fundraiser for one of the local avalanche forecast crews, Goddess and I got the car packed and headed east. We knew a storm was coming and instead of fighting Spokane’s morning rush hour complicated by several inches of snow, we skipped town the afternoon before and landed in the Center of the Universe – Wallace, Idaho.

If you don’t believe me, just ask them. They have even marked it.

After the proclamation in 2004, their stance is “Why not?” And “Prove that it isn’t!”

Gotta love the chutzpah.

Our decision to skip town early was rewarded when we woke up. The Center of the Universe marker was buried.

The car had about 5″ of light fluffy snow piled on it and it was still coming down heavily. Also, the morning news confirmed our suspicion about the morning commute; you would have thought that it was the first time that it had ever snowed in Spokane. But then again, it seems like that every time it snows, much like every time that it rains in Florida or Southern California. Which is why we avoid those commutes.

Instead, we had a 15 minute drive to the mountain, where it kept snowing all day, adding layer upon layer of ridiculously light cold smoke on the runs.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but it was a glorious day of floating and face shots. That and hoots and hollers by everyone. Goddess even commented that all of the 60-70 year olds were giddy like teenagers. It was that good.

One of those “teenagers,” a retired heli-ski guide, schooled me as he showed me the way through the trees and steeps to get to a wonderful out-of-bounds area that was completely untracked. After that, he then guided me through a few hidden tree runs right at the front of the mountain, untouched even though they were within sight of the lodge and right alongside the front lift.

Not that tracks were a problem, with the snow continuing and the spread crowd. We were still finding untracked lines at the end of the day on the slopes right in front of the lodge.

But the title has nothing to do with the lines that the almost 70 year-old guided me through. If it did, the tile would be something like “Retired School Boy Grins All Day Long.”

Instead, it was early afternoon and Goddess and I were floating on Cloud 9.

Seriously, that’s the name of the run.

I take off through the trees, hooting and hollering, having a great time. After a few dozen turns, ducks, and jibes, I pop out onto the run to check on Goddess (and to let her know that I’m OK). She is nowhere to be seen, which is confusing, as I can see to the top of the run. That’s when I hear her shout “I’m in the trees!”

I don’t know who was grinning more when she popped out.

She’ll tell you that she didn’t like it that much, but the look on her face told a different story.

By the end of the day, the mountain reported that they had received 9″+ that day of fluff. Here it is 4 days later and they reported this afternoon that since then they have received 48″+ of cold smoke that will stay nice and fluffy this week as the Arctic airmass settles in.

Winter is really here and we’re going to make the most of it.

Hopefully you are too.

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Shelter

Another TBT to last July in the Sisters Wilderness of Central Oregon.

My fantastic shelter, a Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline. This was the only shelter for Goddess and I during our 2015 PCT thru-hike. In 2017 it was my shelter during three weeks of trail maintenance on the PCT.*

For those of you who have kept track, it has been used and abused for well over 200 nights, packed for close to 3,000 miles.

One of these days, we’ll be sad to see it go. But it will be replaced with another of Gen Shimizu’s hand-crafted ultralight tents.

I was glad to capture the sun setting behind the tent this particular evening. A few days later, I would be diving into it quickly after dinner, glad for the protection from Oregon’s Air Force, the gazillion mosquitoes that would be plastered against the screen, hoping for a meal.

And while we are enjoying everything that this winter has to offer, looking at these pics has me looking forward to summer. But just a little bit. There’s still plenty of winter to enjoy.

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* full disclosure for those relatively new here – Yama Mountain Gear sponsored us during our PCT thru-hike, providing not only the tent pictured, but arranging for other gear and mentoring to help us succeed. We did. We have been under no obligation to continue discussing the products after 2015, but continue to do so because we truly believe that Gen crafts truly great lightweight and ultralight tents, as well as other gear..

Cold Smoke

Yep, more snowboarding stories and pictures on this Monday. Hey, it’s what we do this time of year.

Last week saw us take a day trip over to Lookout Pass Ski, a small resort that sits right on the Idaho/Montana state line. That makes it sound far, but it’s really only an extra 45 minutes of driving each way, compared to our normal drive.

We had never been to Lookout. Our nearcay to Schweitzer the previous week kicked our exploration gears into drive. Plus, it helps to know when and where the deals are, something we weren’t quite up to speed on last winter.

This winter, I am definitely more dialed in on local conditions, which keyed us into Lookout during a weekday after they had received 5″+ of fresh powder, and more forecast during the day. The conditions were great, both on- and off-piste (trail). That’s important, as Goddess can enjoy good conditions on trail while I tear off through the trees or the steeps and we can meet up again further down the mountain.

Here’s a great example, with Goddess in the run. I head off into the trees to the left, keeping pace with her, or, if I get ahead, I can pop out, see how she’s doing, then pop back in. The best part is that we get to share the lift rides back up together.

Another bonus is that she can hear my hoots and hollers and know that I am safe. Unfortunately, that also means that she can hear the “Ow!” when I find myself in a tighter-than-expected spot and smack a hand against a tree.

Yes mom, I wear a helmet.

Goddess does shake her head, especially when I look down at this and get excited. I love chasing the spaces, especially as they come fast and I have to see and think 2-3 turns ahead. It’s a great mental and physical exercise. I mean, just look at all of those potential spaces and lines!

So much fun!

Plus, with the softer powder, it’s safer to nudge Goddess out of her comfort zone, watching her link turns down steeper runs than she would normally do. And it’s that powder that gives this post its name-cold smoke.

Once we get over towards Montana, the snowfall is more influenced by the cold, dry Arctic air out of Canada. Here in Washington, our snow is heavier and wetter, as the storms come off the northeast Pacific Ocean. Even though Lookout isn’t that far away, the differences are significant. Locally, the snow is good for building snowmen or snowballs, while at Lookout it would pour through the fingers like sand.

Not good for snowballs. But great for play!

https://giphy.com/embed/YcxfMzZqJROiQ

No, that’s not me, but you get the idea.

So with just 5″+ of much lighter snow, it was easy to lose visibility with a hard turn as the displaced snow—the cold smoke—flew up in my face. So there aren’t any other pictures from that day. We were having too much fun!

But the next day, I got some evening boarding in, back local in the heavier snow, which is still a heck of a lot of fun.

I do love the twilight view up there, especially as more snow was falling.

Hopefully you’re able to get out enjoy this rapidly retreating winter. We’re having a warm-up here, so we won’t be boarding this week, hoping for some fresh fluff with next weekend’s cool-down.

That means that next Monday won’t be a snowboarding post.

Any ideas on what it could be?

Winter Trees

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.” — Dave Barry

Well, that is one way to look at it.

Of course, my goal is to not beat trees with my face, but to each their own.

When the fresh powder gets deep, that’s the time to head to the steeps, the trees, or a combination thereof.

49N Peacemaker

For those of you not up on your ski resort trail markings, a double black diamond is “for experts only.” Well, that’s not me, but doesn’t mean that I can’t stretch myself.

And hopefully not beat a tree or two with my face.

Before pushing over the edge, I like to stop and enjoy the view. Mainly because once I push over the edge, there won’t be much of a chance to enjoy the view, as I’m too focused on making it through the spaces.

Never, never, never look at the trees while you are flying through them. Look at the spaces. Otherwise, you will hit the tree that you are looking at.

Today’s survival tip for you.

Luckily, this slope isn’t too densely populated by solid objects.

49N Peacemaker Slope

But it sure is steep at the beginning, sloped somewhere around 45° for the first several turns. And my preferred lines were between those clumps of trees to the left and to the right.

Steep, deep, and tight. A great day on the slopes.

A couple of days later, another dump of fresh snow. A different mountain, different runs, and a fun way to ratchet up the challenge—after dark.

Aim for the bright spots!

Mt Spokane Night Trees

Well, not the bright, bright spots, as that’s the light bouncing off the trees. How about “aim for the not so bright, and definitely not the dark, spots”?

Most importantly, a good tree run requires a moment of reflection somewhere among them.

They do have a lot to say.

Hopefully you aren’t letting the winter weather (for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere) keep you from hearing what they have to say.

 

Same Tradition as Every Year

We picked up this lovely tradition whilst living in Germany—the watching of “Dinner for One,” an English-language skit that really took off there, becoming an annual New Year’s Eve tradition.

I wasn’t going to post it here again, but we were going to watch it. Then, during a phone call, a friend asked where it was.

So here it is. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, especially as we think back over the different New Year’s Eve viewings since we were introduced to this by our neighbors in Germany.

For the background on the video: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinner_for_One

Happy New Year, everyone!

Same Procedure as Every Year

Unlike last year, where we had a front row seat to the shenanigans in Cologne, Germany, Goddess and I will be sitting in a quiet house, watching as the next round of 4-6″ of snow falls. No riot police for us this year.

While we lived in Germany, we were introduced to a curious NYE tradition, the annual showing of a TV skit from 1963 called  “Dinner for One“, or more accurately Der 90. Geburtstag. Starting at around dinner time, the skit gets 20 or more showings on various TV channels until midnight.

It’s a fun tradition. Just not one where you should try to keep up with James.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Shasta Flare

Mount Shasta, California, on a crisp autumn afternoon last month.

I had already captured quite a few images of the mountain a few miles back on the highway.  Then I caught a glimpse of this plane as I was driving.  Luckily there was a pull-out up ahead and we’re glad that we have functional anti-lock brakes.  Most importantly, I’m glad that I have an understanding Goddess.

Thankee-sai

Enjoying the post-sunset colors at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

Taken a year ago, returning to that spot where she said yes so many years before that have led to many days like today.  And she still puts up with me, including waking up the next morning with a heavy layer of frost coating our sleeping bags.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you, my Goddess!