What Are Your Ski Goals? Let’s Start the Discussion

With two months to go until we strap on the skis for a new season, it’s time to get serious about what we hope to accomplish.

What are your ski goals this year? For the SkiZer, it’s about numbers. Every year, he sets a goal for the number of days and the amount of vertical he hopes to rack up. It’s a game he plays to see if he’s living up to his hopes and dreams for the season.

Lisa Jones McClellan drops in at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

For others, it’s often about trips they’d like to take. Lisa Jones McClellan of Whitefish, Mont., has a brand new Mountain Collective Pass, a new set of alpine skis, and a plan to “take a few road trips to see old friends in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Alberta, and B.C.” Besides resort skiing, she looks forward to “connecting with friends on backcountry adventures.”

Alison Boggs hopes to get some backcountry days this year.

Alison Boggs, a communications instructor at WSU, also wants to hit the backcountry this year. She’s busy mulling over where to ski on her birthday weekend in January, and thinking about technique.

“I almost always pick a skill (keep my hands in front of me, keep my skis pointed downhill, etc.) to focus on for the season,” she says.

John Grollmus of Sandpoint, Idaho, has some big numbers in mind, as he does every year.

“My goal for every ski season is to ski at least 100 days with a minimum of 40 of those being some form of backcountry be it cat, heli or ski touring,” he says. He also wants to tour some of the West’s best small ski areas, including Lost Trail and Discovery in Montana, and Castle Mountain in Alberta.

Like Grollmus, Nancy George of Beverly, Mass., also has some big numbers in mind. Last year, she skied from October to June and hopes to do it again. She somehow gets on the slopes constantly despite working a full-time job and taking care of a family.

“Last year I skied 111 days; I may not reach that number again, but I certainly will try!”

Nancy George shreds tthe slopes of Timberline in June this year.

And now for the SkiZer.

It’s hard not to get carried away. SkiZer would love to get 100 days, but he needs to keep it real. So here we go.

Number of days: At least 40. Amount of vertical: At least 800,000 vertical feet. And here are a few places he’d love to ski this year: Big Sky, Mont., Jackson Hole, Wyo., Alta-Snowbird, Utah.

Now, let’s get to it.


SkiZer in the Crystal Mountain Southback last March.

Gallery: Ski Season Highlights from an Epic Year

When can you start talking about next ski season? The SkiZer’s rule is mid-August, which is right now.

Let’s start by looking back at last year. It was a great season, filled with powder days and huge dumps. Here are a few of the SkiZer’s favorite shots from last year.

Skiing the East Rim area at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana.
Deep snow after a dump at Revelstoke, British Columbia.
Shark Fin chutes at Lost Trail, Montana.
Powder day at Kicking Horse in British Columbia.
Above the clouds at Sun Peaks, British Columbia.
Heading to the backcountry’s Gil’s Zone at Sun Peaks, British Columbia.
Skiing fresh powder at Bluewood near Dayton, Wash.
Into the clouds at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana.
On the trail at Silver Star, British Columbia.
Fresh snow at Apex Mountain, British Columbia.
SkiZer gets ready to drop in on Gardner Headwall in Wyoming.
Skiing the Rock Creek Headwall on the Beartooth Highway, Montana.
Dropping in on Sasquatch Chute at Crystal Mountain.
SkiZer stops to enjoy the view at Mount Hood in Oregon.
Sunlight splashes the snowy slopes at Crystal Mountain.

Summer Skiing in the Beartooths

Skiing the Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming is the perfect ending to a great season.

The famed highway — arguably the most beautiful high-elevation route in America — is only open from May to October. The SkiZer made the trip in mid-June and skied some of the headwalls off the roadway and also hit the slopes at the tiny, two-platter Beartooth Basin ski area.

The highway is nothing short of amazing. It rises more than a vertical mile from Red Lodge, Mont., and tops out near 11,000 feet. Snow can fall any month of the year, and indeed, while the SkiZer visited, two snowy storms closed the roadway in Wyoming for periods of time.

It’s a wild and beautiful place.

Over the course of four days, SkiZer shredded the high-elevation slopes and even got out the bike to ride the gorgeous highway. It was an epic trip — one that left the SkiZer wanting more.

Days 42 & 43: Beartooth Highway, Mont.

  • Vertical: 15,000
  • Vertical for the year: 735,000
A skier shreds the soft snow on Rock Creek Headwall.
Skiers must hike across the Beartooth Plateau to reach Rock Creek Headwall.
Gardner Headwall offers a wide-open run near Beartooth Pass.
The platter lift at Beartooth Basin offers access to Twin Lakes Headwall.
A skier carves a high-speed turn on Twin Lakes Headwall.
Huge snowdrifts on the roadway near Beartooth Pass.
SkiZer gets ready to drop in on Gardner Headwall.
During a road closure, SkiZer nears 10,000 feet on the Beartooth Highway.

Taking Some High-Speed Laps on Mount Hood

It’s a great year to ski into summer.

Heavy snow in the Cascades over the winter will ensure a long season on the volcanoes of the Northwest. The SkiZer sampled the still-ample snowpack during a late-May romp at Timberline on Mount Hood.

With slopeside temperatures in the 50s, it was soft and fun skiing. SkiZer hit it early, arriving at 8 a.m. The slopes were already slushy, so he spent most of his time on the Palmer Express lift at the top of Timberline ski area.

There’s something to be said for a chairlift that goes to 8,540 feet on Mount Hood. Less than 3,000 vertical feet above is the summit, which seems close enough to touch.

Day 41: Timberline, Mount Hood

  • Vertical: 18,000
  • Vertical for the year: 720,000
A skier walks to the lifts near historic Timberline Lodge.
The Palmer Express lift takes riders to 8,540 feet on Mount Hood’s south flank.
Riders descend near the top of Timberline ski area.
A snowboarder on the slopes of Palmer Snowfield.
The SkiZer stops to enjoy the view.

Hitting the Day 40 Milestone, and Planning to Go for More

By any measure, it has been an epic ski year.

SkiZer logged Day 40 at Crystal Mountain on April 21. The snowpack remains deep — we should be able to climb volcanoes all summer to push the ski-day numbers even higher.

SkiZer set some ski goals last summer, and those have been shattered. On Day 40, SkiZer climbed into the Southback for several laps at Crystal, surpassing the 700,000-vertical-feet mark for the season. Who knows where he’ll end up — it will be fun to find out.

Day 40: Crystal Mountain

  • Vertical: 25,000
  • Vertical for the year: 702,000
Heading toward the top of Silver King.
A skier climbs on the ridge toward the top of Silver King.
A skier drops in on Sasquatch Chute on Silver King.
SkiZer takes a break in the Southback at Crystal.
Skiers drop off Silver King in the Southback at Crystal Mountain.

After a Great Year, Time to Buy the Next Season Pass

Should you buy a season pass? SkiZer always asks himself this question.

It’s a tough one: Season passes are by far the most economical way to get your ski days in. On the down side, the pass ties you to one ski area.

And then there’s the gamble. Will next year be worth a pass? SkiZer has lived through some lousy seasons where the pass wasn’t worth it.

But this time, it seems like buying the pass is a no-brainer. As a great season slowly ends, passes for next year are on sale and SkiZer decided to pony up at Crystal Mountain. Bonus: the pass is good for the rest of this stellar season, which continues for another month.

After scoring as many end-of-season days as possible this year, SkiZer will maximize the value next year. That’s the plan anyway.

As for Day 1 of the season pass: It was excellent. About 10 inches of new snow had fallen. It was a bit warm and wet — hey it’s spring, after all — but nothing the K2 Pinnacle 105s couldn’t handle. Fresh turns were found on Northway and about midway through the day, the Southback opened, offering more freshies.

Time to make that pass start paying.

Day 36: Crystal Mountain

  • Vertical: 30,000
  • Vertical for the year: 622,000
Skiers turn at the top of High Campbell at Crystal Mountain.
A snowboarder rides Chair 6.
K2 Pinnacle 105s handle the heavy snow with ease.
Hiking to the Southback at Crystal Mountain.

We Can Dream: A Powder Day Without Dudes

SkiZer had women on his mind on day 34 of the season.

It was International Women’s Day, and SkiZer found himself on the slopes of Crystal Mountain around a bunch of men. Dudes, really.

But that didn’t stop some interesting thoughts. Such as, why on a powder day, are dudes such assholes?

First of all, the day was incredible. It was probably the best powder day of the year, with a cold storm dropping eight inches, and it dumped another five during the day. That’s over a foot, my friends, on top of two feet that have fallen in recent days.

Soft? Yes, incredibly so, with every turn feeling effortless. SkiZer never took a break, skied uncut lines for most of the day and scored his biggest vertical of the season (40,000 feet).

Back to Women’s Day.

Powder days are dude-fests, there’s no getting around it. The lineup in the morning for first chairlift ride was a testosterone-filled sh*t show. Maybe one or two women were in line with the 80 or so dudes waiting, but SkiZer never saw them.

So when you find yourself in the company of men, you’re bound to see bad behavior. Line-cutters. Stupid braggarts. More stupid braggarts. Aggressive shoving.

Now, if this was a lineup of women who were waiting on a powder day, you’d see none of these bad social characteristics. There would be no line-cutters. Instead of braggarts, you’d see conversationalists. Instead of aggressive shoving, you’d see polite, “After yous.”

Wouldn’t it be nice.

Day 34: Crystal Mountain

  • Vertical: 40,000
  • Vertical for the year: 592,000
It’s a Dude-fest waiting for the opening of an epic powder day at Crystal
First run: Hitting it hard.
Powder run in Avalanche Basin.