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.

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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.”

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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!”

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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.

 

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SkiZer in the Crystal Mountain Southback last March.

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

A New Season Opens on Chinook Pass

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Naches Peak from the newly opened Chinook Pass.
  • Day 30 – May 17, 2016
  • Chinook Pass
  • Vertical for the day: 6,000
  • Year total: 587,000

It was a day for beginnings and endings.

The Washington Department of Transportation opened Chinook Pass (elevation 5,432) on Tuesday, May 17, and the SkiZer was there to make some turns. The highway closes for the winter months, and when Chinook Pass opens in the springtime, it offers a few weeks of skiing before it finally melts out.

The SkiZer pulled in about 9 a.m. along with a few other diehard skiers who had come for the experience. Jon Schwantes and Carlos Fraga, who had driven from the Tri-Cities, teamed up with SkiZer for an attack on Naches Peak, just off the top of the pass.

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Climbing from Chinook Pass on Naches Peak.
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Carlos turns past some avalanche debris on the first run off Naches Peak.

The snow was firm at the beginning, but quickly softened in the sunny, 50-degree weather. We hit the northeast side of the peak for a quick run, then climbed for the summit along the eastern ridge.

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Jon and Linda on the west-facing slopes underneath Naches Peak.
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Jon, SkiZer and Carlos take a lunch break on Naches Peak, with Mount Rainier in the background.

There, we met Linda, a skier from Tacoma, who led us on an drop down the steep western side of the peak. At noon, Linda, Jon and Carlos headed for their cars and SkiZer headed for one more run off the eastern side of the peak.

All it all, it was a fun opening day on Chinook Pass. At 30 days on the season, it might well be SkiZer’s finale.

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SkiZer hits Day 30 on the season.

Slaying a Volcano on a Warm Spring Day

  • Day 29 – April 19, 2016
  • Muir Snowfield, Mount Rainier
  • Vertical for the day: 9,000
  • Year total: 581,000

A ski acquaintance likes to say this time of year is for “slaying volcanoes.”

With 90-degree heat in Seattle, the SkiZer headed to the high-alpine air of Mount Rainier and unsheathed his AT skies for an exceptional volcano-slaying adventure.

Starting at the Paradise parking lot at 9:30 a.m., SkiZer strapped on the skins and made it to Anvil Rock at 9,000 feet three hours later. It was gorgeous, with 50-degree temps, just right for a comfortable lunch break watching rockfall off the Northwest’s most impressive peak.

The ski down was a treat. Muir Snowfield is low-angle and expansive. It feels like the world’s widest intermediate run. Turn after turn carved nicely in the soft spring snow.

Rainier down. Who’s the SkiZer’s next volcano victim?

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Lunch break at 9,000 feet.
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Skiers head up the slopes of Mount Rainier.