Why Winter is Special at Crater Lake

Crater Lake is one of those places that makes your jaw drop at any time of year. But visiting in winter makes it even more special to the SkiZer.

The hordes of camera-totin’ tourists are long gone, and in their place, a gorgeous coat of snow makes this spectacular place even more beautiful. Heavy snow closes the Rim Road and it becomes a trail for Nordic skiers and snowshoers.

In other words this wild place just gets wilder, and you know how much SkiZer likes it when that happens.

SkiZer spent the day skiing eight miles along the Rim Road, taking in the ever-present views of the lake. It was warm — temps were in the upper 40s — and the skiing was fantastic.

What a great way to start the Nordic ski season.

Day 4: Crater Lake

  • Distance skied: 15K
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Doug Orr passes a group of snowshoers.
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SkjZer and Doug Orr ski along the Crater Lake Rim.
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Doug Orr and the SkiZer pose above the lake.
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Doug Orr skis a meadow on the return to Rim Village.
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Wizard Island looks great covered in snow.

Day 5: Crater Lake Backcountry

  • Distance: 15K
  • Distance for season: 29K
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Doug Orr climbs on the Rim Road
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SkiZer ascends the path through a glade.
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The view from the south rim.

 

Last Day of Winter: Still Time to Skate

It was a rough ski week in the Northwest. Torrential rain hit the mountains for several days causing avalanches and floods.

Then it got cold and froze all the soggy snow. Not exactly a great recipe for hitting the slopes — but we do what we can.

SkiZer decided the last day of winter was best spent skate-skiing. The firm snow was melting under a very spring-like sun, turning any ice into a forgiving track at Hyak, along the John Wayne Trail.

The snow was fast and fun. Onto spring skiing!

Day 35: Hyak

  • Distance skied: 28K
  • Distance for the year: 116K
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SkiZer takes a break in the sunshine.
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Skaters and classic Nordic skiers hit the tracks on the John Wayne Trail.

 

 

Flying High After Some Race-Day Inspiration

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.

Day 28: Cabin Creek

  • Distance skied: 20K
  • Distance for the year: 98K
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Skiers round a turn at Cabin Creek.
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Racers climb a hill on the Viking course at Cabin Creek.

Skate-Away on a Cloudy Day

We’re in a lousy high-pressure holding pattern for snow, so it seemed like a day to simply get out and get a workout in.

The SkiZer hit the Hyak Sno-Park and promptly skate-skied 22 K on some fast trails on Keechelus Lake.

It’s hard to get excited when you’re skiing next to a freeway, but that’s the price you pay for 50-minute access from Seattle. It was basic skiing, which is better than no skiing at all.

Day 26: Hyak

  • Distance skied: 22K
  • Distance for the year: 78K
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A skate-skier along the groomed trail on Keechelus Lake.

Skate-Skiing is Good for a Quick Brain Break

Work, work, work.

Sometimes you need a break. After eight straight days looking at the computer screen, the SkiZer did a quick run up to Cabin Creek for some skate-skiing.

SkiZer has a love-hate thing with Cabin Creek. Loves the access, hates the crowds, and the fact that it’s right next to an interstate highway.

On this day, the access won out, and SkiZer skated away on firm trails. Bonus: No crowds on a Tuesday.

Fast, mind-clearing skiing ensued. Then it was back to Seattle for more work, but with a better attitude.

Day 25: Cabin Creek

  • Distance skied: 11K
  • Distance for the year: 56K
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SkiZer skates on Mount Ozbaldy at Cabin Creek.
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A meadow off the Nordic trails at Cabin Creek.

Up We Go for a Bluebird Day on Mount Ambilis

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SkiZer on the climb up Mount Ambilis.

The SkiZer is back on the road for six days of ski adventuring.

First up: Mount Ambilis at the Cabin Creek Nordic trails just east of Snoqualmie Pass.

It was a cold day — just 6 degrees Fahrenheit at the start. Working hard made things better, and the SkiZer was quickly shedding clothing.

The climb has more than 2,000 vertical thrown in for fun. It’s slog up, then a cold coast down. Good views of Mount Rainier happen near the top.

The trail was in decent shape, except for the hikers who left post-holes on the groomed surface. Seriously? Ever heard of snowshoes? Maybe try them next time.

Day 15: Mount Ambilis

  • Distance skied: 15K
  • Distance for the year: 45K
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Powdery snow on the trail to Mount Ambilis.
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Mount Rainier peeks above the horizon during the climb of Mount Ambilis.

Blue Skies, Cold Snow: What’s Not to Like?

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The Nordic trails at Mt. Bachelor are primo with fresh snow.

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.

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SkiZer stops in for skate and classic skiing.

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.

Day 5: Mt. Bachelor Nordic

  • Distance skied: 18K
  • Distance for the year: 30K
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Skiers hit Woody’s Way on Mt. Bachelor.
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A skate-skier on the groomed trails of Dutchman Flat at Mt. Bachelor.

Nordic Skis Save the Day After an Epic Rainier Dump

The SkiZer found himself in “save” mode during Day 2 of the season.

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SkiZer makes the best of it at Longmire.

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.

Day 2: Longmire Nordic

  • Distance skied: 12K
  • Season total: 12K
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Skiers trek through the woods near Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park.
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Headwaters of the Nisqually River are covered with fresh snow.
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The gate to Paradise is closed at Longmire after heavy snow.

 

Rockin’ the Good Times in Leavenworth

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Lee Bob and the Truth perform at the Timbrrr! Festival. (Leslie Kelly)

Day 16: Jan. 30, 2016

You have to love a place where you can eat good food, party, see a killer concert and then go skiing the next day.

After a night of rockin’ it at the Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival (shoutout to my new favorite band, Lee Bob and the Truth!), I hit the tracks at Leavenworth the next morning. Admittedly, my head was hurting, but nothing a day on skis couldn’t fix.

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Skiers enjoy the trails at Leavenworth Fish Hatchery.

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.

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Skate-skiers on the outer loop along the Icicle River at the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery.

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.

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A classic skier enjoys the tracks at Leavenworth Ski Hill.