The SkiZer arrived for a day of skate-skiing at Cabin Creek Sno-Park feeling a little uninspired. It was a gloomy day, and the snow was crusty after a major rain storm hit late last week.
Those ski blues all changed as soon as he hit the trails. Kongsberger Ski Club was hosting the Stampede 15K Freestyle, and it was hard not to get a little pumped watching the skiers rock the course.
Conditions for skate-skiing turned out to be great — the icy, granular snow was rocket-fast — and the SkiZer completed 12K in no time. As the racers finished up, SkiZer went for another lap, flying faster this time.
The day started at zero degrees Fahrenheit on the Nordic trails at Mt. Bachelor.
Skate-skiing was cold and a little slow, but you have to love a sunny day in December. The SkiZer went after it with gusto and finished a loop called Woody’s Way in fairly short order.
After a warm-up with excellent coffee at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center lodge, he was back at it with a tour around Dutchman Flat and then another loop on Woody’s Way, this time on classic skis.
Mt. Bachelor has some of the best Nordic skiing in the Pacific Northwest, with a season that lasts from November to May. After back-to-back days on the downhill boards, it felt nice to exercise the Nordic muscles in a perfect setting.
The SkiZer found himself in “save” mode during Day 2 of the season.
With heavy snow falling at Paradise on Mount Rainier, the SkiZer had high hopes for a backcountry powder day. That fantasy was quickly erased when a ranger at Longmire delivered the news that the road to Paradise wouldn’t be opening — too much snow.
Two feet of powder had fallen overnight at Paradise, and crews couldn’t keep up with the dump.
Oh well. Longmire would have to do, and it wasn’t bad. About eight inches new covered the National Park tourist complex, and the SkiZer quickly threw on the Nordic skis for a sojourn on some back roads.
It wasn’t a powder day at Paradise, but it would do for a workout.
First I loaded up on an excellent breakfast and a few cups of restorative coffee at the Icicle Inn. By 8 a.m., I was skiing on the Icicle River Trails at Leavenworth Fish Hatchery. Conditions couldn’t have been better for skate-skiing — the trails were groomed, frozen and fast.
“This snow will make you feel like Superman,” said Jim Ward, owner of Sulla Vita, an excellent Leavenworth restaurant. I ran into Jim as he was coming off the trails. Part of my foggy brain was due to the wine I’d had with Jim the night before — but for some reason, he looked great. Why me?
In the cool Icicle River Valley, fog hung at tree level as I blazed around the hatchery’s 8K of flat trails in no time — then skied the outer loop a second time to get in a little more. I burned to the finish as the fog was lifting in the valley and in my head.
Later, I hit the Nordic trails at Leavenworth Ski Hill. The old-school ski hill is a ropetow-served alpine ski area, but it’s also home to the town’s most challenging Nordic trails that snake up the mountainside.
In contrast to the hatchery trails, the ski hill was nearly empty. These hilly 7K are a push and will challenge even the fittest skier. Conditions were great and by the time the sun poked through to bathe the ski hill in warm light, I was feeling human again.
It’s not often that you feel like you can ski forever.
With icy conditions at Cabin Creek Sno-Park on Day 14 of the SkiZer season, it felt like that. Horrible conditions for alpine skiing, but great for skate-skiing.
I hit the trails by 8:30 a.m. Only one other car was in the lot when I arrived. It had been warm the previous day, then it froze overnight, leaving the trail ice-rink firm.
A skater on The Road at Cabin Creek.
Map of Cabin Creek.
I skied “The Road” — a 4.6K flat trail — in a record sprint. Every pole plant translated into power, every skate movement into speed. I hit the Viking trail and proceeded to burn up the rolling 6.2K loop, then charged onto the 2.2K Berg trail. It was all too easy.
What next? After a brief water and food break, I decided to hit the Viking trail again. I roared around the trail and passed a couple of other skaters.
“Isn’t this great!” I said. They agreed. My skill was incredible, I thought as I rounded the next bend. I’m a Norse god!
Then I lost my balance and proceeded to fall on my egotistical ass.
I hauled my bruised butt back onto my skis and came back to earth. I managed to skate out the rest of my day with a little more humility.