“Early” Season Backcountry and Resort Skiing the PNW: Drool Worthy

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 23, 2017      

The rumors are true. Winter is off to an incredible start here in the PNW. A series of stupendous snowstorms blanketed the mountains. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was mid-January. This last week we’ve had a blast skiing in-bounds at Crystal Mountain, with a taste of surrounding backcountry. Check out a few photos:

Scoring first tracks of the throne, inbounds at Crystal.

Scoring first tracks of The Throne, inbounds at Crystal.

Getting deep mid-storm.

Getting deep mid-storm.

After the storm, the sun came out, for a few days of rare bluebird powder skiing.

After the storm the sun came out for a few days of rare bluebird powder skiing.

Hiking up to the King at Crystal, with beautiful Mt. Rainier National Park behind.

Hiking up to The King at Crystal, with beautiful Mt. Rainier National Park behind.

…and up again for another lap.

Enjoying a deep snowpack.

Enjoying a deep snowpack.

Yeah, feel jealous. Not too much though, it’s gonna rain several inches this week, with freezing levels up to 8,000 feet. I hope there’s some snow left.


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14 Responses to ““Early” Season Backcountry and Resort Skiing the PNW: Drool Worthy”

  1. Webbed Toes November 23rd, 2017 9:13 am

    Ha, it’s been raining almost nonstop since monday even at pass levels!

    Are those dead looking trees in the last few photos from the big wildfire this summer?

  2. Andy Carey November 23rd, 2017 9:18 am

    Ah, but the bane of the PNW: pineapple express. After the best mid November snow I can remember came the warmest and one of the wettest ever pineapple expresses. Snow at Crystal dropped from 45 inches to 29 inches and at Paradise, 64 inches to 34 inches. Well, at least we have a base, but only a few inches of new snow in the forecast by the weekend. Probably got close to 10 inches of rain up to 8,000 feet at and above Paradise in the last 4 days (Paradise is 5,500, Crystal Green Valley 6,200).

  3. Jeremy Allyn November 24th, 2017 8:54 pm

    Great shots, Louie. Fun getting out in some prime snow! Super wet and grim out there now…but I agree with Andy, one of the best Novembers I can remember.

  4. Crazy Horse November 25th, 2017 5:23 am

    Recent linguistic studies argue that there are nearly as many different English words for snow as there are Eskimo words for it.

    So as skiers we should start using them!

    Powder snow is not anything white that falls from the sky as resort PR directors would have us believe! The best definition is an empirical test as follows: Hold a ski parallel to the snow at waist level and drop it into the snow. If a cloud of white dust arises, it is powder snow. Anything else is new snow, fresh snow, wet snow, wind crust or ??? whatever.

    If it comes out of a gun it is fake snow.

    The stuff that remains at any lift served ski area three hours after the lifts start spinning is chouder, no matter how it started out that morning.

    And as much fun as it may be to ski with new style skis, the snow at Crystal in Louie’s photos ain’t powder snow!

  5. Jim Milstein November 25th, 2017 10:23 pm

    I like the Squeeze Test for powder snow. (shortening to “pow” is crass. Please control yourself!) Squeeze a handful of snow. Open your hand. If it sticks together it is not powder snow.

  6. Louis Dawson November 27th, 2017 11:41 am

    Hmm yeah I guess I’ve lived in the wet and scrappy too long, and have forgotten what powder snow is. Thanks for the reminder. We never actually get powder up in the PNW, and it’s never any fun, so don’t come visit!

  7. Sky November 28th, 2017 10:03 am

    Yeah Louie! It’s all good, isn’t it? I’d love to ski some sponge cake pow right about now.

  8. Crazy Horse November 28th, 2017 2:11 pm

    Hi Louie
    Upon second thought I agree totally. After all, powder skiing is just a state of mind, so it’s impossible to encapsulate it with mere words and definitions. And we live in an era when most news is fake news, so why bother trying to bring back language when we are better off just going skiing.

    ps: The best single day of inbounds powder skiing I’ve experienced in 40 years was at Alpental just off Snoqualmie Pass.

  9. Mike Mullen January 3rd, 2018 11:07 pm

    Powder snow comes in many flavors:

    Dust on crust is powder but I’d rather be in 12″ of wet cement. Hell, I’d rather be in 12″ of wet cement than 12″ of smoke powder so light your skis are running on the crusty base.

    If you squeeze fresh snow and it forms a ball, it’s not powder anymore. But it was before you squeezed it.

    A German ski instructor was overheard telling his student who had been complaining about the poor quality of the snow “There’s no bad snow, only bad skiers.”

    That about sums it up.

  10. Jim Milstein January 3rd, 2018 11:38 pm

    Au contraire! Powder snow must be loose dry snow; otherwise it is not powdery. Any kind of powder: snow or flour or gunpowder or dust or talcum powder, and so on, when wet stops being powder and becomes something else: mud or paste or dough and so on. So, let’s not sap the word of its essence. Powder snow is made of loose, dry snow crystals. It can be fresh; it can be old.

    Question: Is surface hoar powder? Probably not, since it is not made of snow crystals. Same for depth hoar.

    But now, quibbling aside, I’d be happy to have any kind of snow at all. Worst winter ever here in S Colorado.

  11. Kristian January 4th, 2018 7:58 am

    Yeah, but what about ski resort snow reports with “Packed Powder”? :-/

  12. Jim Milstein January 4th, 2018 8:24 am

    Marketing lingo. Translation: Might have been powder, and you can still move it around.

  13. Kristian January 4th, 2018 8:59 am

    Some years ago, I was located next to the person at Vail Resorts that put out the snow reports. I think that she was marketing….

  14. Jack January 4th, 2018 11:14 am

    At Eastern resorts (aka the outer ring of heck) packed powder means: some loose snow remains, blown to the edges of trails and you can leave a track in it if you are quick/dumb/good enough to ski that 2 foot wide space without arcing into the trees.

    I have, no lie, seen Mainiacs break out 120 mm powder skis to ski that 2 foot wide track. Hope springs eternal.

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