Birthday Storm Week
Words by: Kat Parks
Photos by: Cayman Waughtel
The “when you get so much snow that a resort day is the funnest and safest turns you’ll find” blog post. The mountains got absolutely nuked on this last weekend through Tuesday. I90 over Snoqualmie Pass was closed for almost 24 hours, hwy 2 over Steven’s was closed for even longer, and access to Paradise at MRNP was closed for a solid 5 days. The town of Alta in Utah is on total lock down because avy danger is so high that officials are worried that a slide will destroy part of the city, Utah Avy issued an all-black rose yesterday, and February continues to be one of the deadliest months for avalanche fatalities. Getting a fuck ton of snow is both incredibly exciting and terrifying so when we looked at our options for snow sliding this week, we settled on an inbounds day at White on Tuesday to celebrate my birthday and earning some turns at Hyak yesterday. Going into this season, we made the conscious choice to forego passes and just focus on backcountry and agreed that we’d buy a day pass if a huge storm cycle warranted coughing up money for lift tickets. I wanted pow turns on my birthday and boy did I get my wish.
I will never enjoy riding lifts (Tuesday was my second time riding lifts this season) and much prefer earning my turns. I can tell that I’ve been backcountry skiing a lot because both times I’ve ridden lifts this season, I’ve been an absolute mess. The first time was for some night skiing at Snoqualmie where I got tossed off a lift at the top because I was used to the speed that the newer lifts go when dumping it’s riders off the chair. Thankfully my friend Aya was there to give me a hand up so I could get out of the way of others. That same night I fell over in the lift line for no reason other than that I wasn’t used to being on packed, flat snow. Tuesday offered another chair lift mishap because an inbounds day wouldn’t be stellar if there wasn’t some sort of lift debacle. In my defense, I haven’t ridden a lift with a snowboarder in several seasons because Cayman skied when we were inbounds the last two seasons. Riding a lift with a snowboarder is a whole thing because we have to get off the lift differently and snowboarders only have one foot attached to their snow slider. We exited the lift with Cayman’s backside to me so as we exited, I drifted right and he drifted left and one of my skis ended up between his legs and before he knew it, he was on the ground. From there on out, we did a better job communicating our exit plan before the top. The day was deep, as we knew it would be. There were inches of fresh snow over the groomers and the tree skiing was such that at one point I put in a turn and sunk into a thigh deep powder hole. The visibility was so terrible at times (it was a storm day after all) that the only reference I had to the snow underneath me was that I could see my skis so I knew that the run was there, and I just kept my knees soft and hoped for the best.
The snow was still too deep and the avy danger too high for an actual tour yesterday so we headed up to Hyak to earn some inbounds turns, have another day in the mountains, and continue my birthday pow turn dreams.
Hyak has an interesting mix of people recreating midweek. We caught up to two skiers at the top and it became immediately apparent that the dude in the duo was pretentiously annoying. He offered a lot of “advice” to his female partner and he especially loved sharing that he’d been backcountry skiing for over 15 years. A group of bro-bag splitboarders arrived at the top, started talking about pork jerky and chocolate, offered me some food (which I declined), and started the slowest transition I’ve ever seen. They were finally descending after we were half way back up from our first run. The truth is that the bro-bags were way cooler and much more chill than the pretentious man with over 15 years of touring experience and if it wasn’t a pandemic, I would have wanted to have a beer with them afterwards. The snow started to get heavy and we decided it was time to head out but not before finding one last shaded run to descend where the snow was still light and fluffy. By the time we reached the bottom, the snow on my skis weighed more than my set-up but the sun was warm so we hung out in the lot for a bit soaking up the warmth while eating Stromboli and King Cake.
On turning 33 I have this to say: My body and spirit are stronger than ever. Although the Patriarchy still exists and probably won’t be dismantled in my lifetime, the future is Witchy and feminine. My magick is unrelenting, my love is unending, and my power is ceaseless.