Mt Baker, WA 3/3/2017

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Mt Baker, WA 3/3/2017

Postby tseeb » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:45 pm

In late Feb. 2016, I skied at Whistler a third day instead of moving to Mt Baker as I had planned after hearing there had been recent rain above Baker's base. When EpicSki scheduled their Gathering at Whistler for early March 2017, a few of us planned to stop at Baker on way between Seattle and Whistler on the Friday before event started. With big storm predicted for Thurs/Fri, we thought our timing was great, but it turned out to be the worst of my 6 days in OR and WA. How can a day that began with these conditions not turn out well? Not sure when temp was 30 as it seemed higher.
The problem was that new snow was too deep and heavy and once it had been chopped up, it was very difficult to ski well. This was made worse by Friday crowds from expected new snow, some delayed lift openings and limited visibility.

It was snowing hard 500-1000 feet below Mt Baker's 4500' White Salmon base when I arrived well before lifts opened and got front row parking. I had time for coffee while booting up in lodge, then got my $42 Senior ticket for being 60-69 - a first for me, and took my skis in for a hot wax as I could tell snow was not dry and I would need all the help I could get. While waiting for skis to be done, I saw Tom (near_nyquist) then went upstairs and found Rainbow_Jenny. We went to 8:45 meetup with Phil (posaune), who lives in the area and was guiding us and his wife, Terry. The line for chair 7, which connects White Salmon base with rest of area, was growing and even though Tom expressed doubt that it would open on time, Phil and I threw down our skis to avoid line growing past us while we were standing there. Chair started on time at 9, but when we got off at top, we thought we heard all other lifts were on hold, a condition Phil had never experienced. He went under rope towards chairs 4, 5 and 6, but I did not as I didn't want to ski through what I thought was a closed area to a base with no running lifts. (I later learned that Baker ropes off "Extreme areas", but it is OK to ski them. I'm no sure when other chairs started loading.) I skied two laps on chair 7, finding some low-angle untracked with only one short steep pitch. I moved to chair 4 where I took a lap, then caught up with group at top of chair 5, which along with chair 6 was not loading my first time through. Snow was quickly getting cut up and was hard to ski. I really had to commit to be able to make turns in and on it and it seemed like it would have been easy to hurt a knee or leg in it. We took a couple of laps on 5 and 6, once it opened and line went done, but did not find good snow anywhere. We met up with Brian (noncrazycanuck) and a friend of his, both from Vanouver, but staying in a cabin in Glacier, the closest lodging to Baker. We went into the beautiful Raven Hut lodge for an early break where I should have brushed snow off my helmet as a lot of it fell down my neck.

After a break, we went out again, but could not find anything that great and skied some groomers with short stretches of cut up powder that ranged from poor to survivable. I was surprised that there were groomed runs, some very wide, given the amount of new snow that continued to fall. We went into main lodge for lunch after 1. Then Tom, Jenny and I did not get out on hill until almost 3. I took out my narrower skis with different shell and gloves and all the locals declined to join us. We took a lap on chair 4, that they said was closing early, then three or four laps on chair 5. I skied double-diamond Gabl's which was OK at top, but became survival skiing partway down as snow was very difficult. If anything temps were dropping and cutup snow was starting to freeze. We took one more lap together then I headed for chair 8. The run there was good, mostly on groomed, but I missed closing of chair and had a mostly flat route to my car.

My watch counted 16 runs and 16K vertical. It was my lowest of the trip and also was the most exhausting day. I was glad I was not skiing the next two days, although it sounds like Whistler skied much better on Friday (and Saturday, except for crowds). I missed a turn on my way to room in Bellingham and went about ten miles out of my way. After getting all the damp clothes and gear out of my car, I wanted to find a slice or two of pizza, but instead ended up at Boundary Bay Brewery where I had an excellent smoked salmon chowder with Caesar salad for $10.
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