Snow

In Just Spring: An Ode to Multi-Sport Season

“April is the cruelest month,” wrote T.S. Eliot exactly one hundred years ago in the opening stanza of The Waste Land. The famous first line reads like an indictment of the fourth month as Eliot yearns to stave off vernal rebirth and remain in the stillness that precedes spring: April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead …

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Mea Culpa

It was time, I suppose, for a revitalized sense of humility: not meekness or servility, exactly, but more a respectful modesty about abilities, beliefs, understandings. The basics: a late-winter backcountry ski tour with friends in familiar terrain. There were four of us. I was the one with the most backcountry experience, the most local knowledge, the most specific avalanche training, …

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In the Darkest Winter, Finding a Light on the Longest Night

In early December, the sun sets on Mt. Rainier at an abysmal 4:20 p.m. For the winter backcountry adventurer, watching the sun dip below the horizon does not suggest a leisurely postprandial pursuit for lounging around camp sipping from a flask. When sunset comes at the time my deskbound self would be brewing an afternoon pick-me-up to carry me through …

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The Other Mountain: Mt. Shuksan in Winter

Anyone who has driven up the Mount Baker Highway to Heather Meadows knows that Mt. Shuksan is hard to ignore. This spectacular mountain rises over 7,700 vertical feet from the North Fork of the Nooksack River in less than three miles, radical topography even by North Cascades standards.  Icefalls cascade down from her northern flanks and the summit pyramid towers …

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Old Friends and Falling Snow: Winter at White Salmon Creek

The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of only one thing and one thing only. – Joseph Wood Krutch   I am old enough to have experienced the profound benefit of long friendships. The arc of a lifetime, when shared with folks who are special to …

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To Plow or Not to Plow? That is the Question along North Cascades Highway as Methow Valley Seeks Sno-Park at Silver Star Gate

After a conspicuously dry fall, the 2019 winter solstice was wet and wild in the Pacific Northwest as a Pineapple Express drenched the region with moisture. Seattle shattered a 120-year-old precipitation record by over an inch, but my hopes for liquid gold turning to powder in the high country after an agonizingly slow start to the ski season were dashed. …

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Winter Bliss at Artist Point

The mood of a Pacific Northwest winter is defined by monochromatic clouds and a never-ending somber grayness. The dampness that muffles sound also softens the edges of the scenery. There seems little depth to the view as layers of fog and mist create a two dimensional portrait of the world. Shadows hardly exist.   But luckily, the Mt. Baker Highway …

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The Art of Hokking

In the remote Altai Mountains of Northwest China the word for ski is “Hok”. For me, in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington, the word for fun is Hok! Ever since Nils Larsen introduced me to these short, fat skis I’ve had more fun than ever on snow days. Full disclosure here; I’m a professional. I ran a Nordic ski …

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Where to Ski (and Eat) in the Methow Valley

You’re driving into the Methow Valley. The snow is perfect. Small mountain towns greet you, lined with alluring restaurants, tempting bakeries and thirst-quenching pubs. All good….. but where should you ski in the largest groomed Nordic ski network in North America? Hmmm, you only have two days, a long weekend, maybe a week. Difficult choices need to be made. The …

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Graduation Day

I am inescapably and resoundingly middle-aged. I have been a college student for three years now, liquidating savings and borrowing heavily against presumed future earnings. Recently—remarkably—I graduated: thirty years almost to the day since I finished high school. Early that morning I drove to the mountains for a celebratory ski in the Mt. Baker backcountry, my excuse being that I …

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