Words by: Kat Parks
Photos by: Cayman Waughtel
Like most snow-loving folx, we eagerly awaited the snow return to the mountains this season. We missed our chance in early November when we got dumped on only to get disappointed by high freezing levels that destroyed our snowpack down to nothing by the end of the month. I kicked myself for not going up when the snow was good but I found solace in riding my bike and getting my ski gear winter ready. We watch the forecast like hawks this time of year and could hardly contain our stoke when we saw the temperature drop. 40° and rainy in Olympia means snow up high and it came in like a FORCE. In a matter of 5 days, I watched the snow depth at Rainier go from less than 30” to almost 80” which meant that we could officially plan our first day out for the season.
Like our timing last year, we hit White two days before the season opener for a good gear shake down and to see what our bodies remembered. It was also a great place to take our friend Phoenix on his first tour because we were able to stay in-bounds and easily avoid avalanche terrain while he learned how to skin and transition. Off the groomed runs, the snow was DEEP and blower and the weather couldn’t have been better.
While skinning up a second time, I noticed my right two piece was loose and when I removed my boot from my pins, I saw that all the screws were loose and I had lost one. Along with my winter 10 essentials, avalanche gear, and plenty of yummy snacks, I also carry a touring specific repair kit complete with ski straps, crampon plate screws, a scraper, and glob stopper. Luckily, Cayman handed me a little baggy with two extra Zed screws in it a couple days ago that I added to my kit so I was able to fix my toe piece with my trusty Leatherman Squirt and keep touring.
Ending the day with a big smile from our friend after completing his first tour was the absolute best and the drive home was spent eating leftover mac and cheese while I read Harry Potter out loud.
In keeping with tradition, we spent the 3rd year in a row skiing for McEvan’s birthday. This year we skied together a day early but it still counts as a birthday ski in my book. The three of us set out towards Bullion while we chatted and commented on how floofy and dry the snow was. Wind slabs were the main avalanche concern for the day so we took careful note of changes in the snow as we set our skin track up the basin. When we came to an open area that was heavily wind affected, we did some quick hand tests and made the decision to scoot back to safer snow and put in some powdery laps.
We enjoyed a whiskey birthday cheers at the bottom of our first lap and couldn’t help but smile and laugh about the great snow we had just skied. We put in another couple laps before heading out the aptly coined “luge track” which is always an interesting blend of excitement and hoping I won’t crash (I did have a glorious crash, by the way).
With satisfied and tired bodies, we consumed Harry Potter and charcuterie on our way home.