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.

Still Time to Turn at My Own Private Ski Area

Something about climbing at a closed ski area is particularly appealing to the SkiZer.

Day 37 of the season was quick climb-and-ski at Summit East, also known as Hyak. SkiZer was on his way to Spokane for an NCAA Championship viewing party with friends (Go Zags!) and Summit East pulled him in.

What’s it like? Nobody is around, and it feels like you own the place. It’s a ghost town, and you’re the mayor.

SkiZer clipped in and 45 minutes later, he stood on top during a gorgeous spring day. With an inch of new snow, it was just enough to make the descent soft and fun.

Day 37: Summit East

  • Vertical: 3,000
  • Vertical for the year: 625,000
A skier follows in SkiZer’s tracks at Summit East.
SkiZer with the trademark Summit East water tower.
Skins and skis on the way up.
A view of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from the top of Summit East.

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
Skiers round a turn at Cabin Creek.
Racers climb a hill on the Viking course at Cabin Creek.

DIY: How to Heat-Mold Your Ski Boots

Boot-fitting is an art. Great boot-fitters can really help your aching feet, and let’s face it: ski boots can be pretty uncomfortable.

But not all boot adjustments have to be done at the ski shop. Some things can be fixed with a little DIY know-how.

The SkiZer just got a new pair of K2 Spyne 110 boots and decided to heat-mold the liners himself. Turns out it’s not that hard.

Heat-moldable Intuition liners are a feature of most boots on the market. You don’t have to heat-mold your liners — they’ll eventually mold to your foot shape after use. But if you heat-mold them, you’ll get a custom fit from the start.

Here’s what you’ll need for the job:rice

  • A pair of old socks you can cut up.
  • A pair of old tube socks
  • About 4 lbs. of rice
  • A board
  • Access to a microwave

Step 1: Prepare your rice heaters

Fill your tube socks with the rice. Tie knots on the ends and place them in  a microwave oven on high for about five minutes. Less powerful microwaves may take a minute or two longer.

Step 2: Get ready

While the microwave is running, cut off the toes from a pair of old socks. These are toe-caps. Place both of them over the toes of one foot and put a ski sock on over them. You’ll heat-mold one foot at a time, but you’ll need to wear both boots during the process, so put a ski sock (without toe-caps) on your other foot. Remove the foot-bed from the liner of the boot you’ll be heat-molding.

Step 3: Heat the boot liners

After the rice is hot, take the filled tube socks and place both of them inside the boot. Buckle it, and wait 10 minutes for it to heat. While you’re waiting, put on your other boot.

Step 4: Mold the liner

Once the liner is hot (after 10 minutes), remove the rice socks, return the foot-bed to the liner and put on the warmed boot. Buckle it loosely. Stand for 10 minutes with the toes of your boots elevated on a 2″x 4″ board. If you don’t have a 2″x 4,” a couple of cutting boards stacked on top of each other work just as well. Stand for 10 minutes.

Step 5: Repeat on the other foot

Take off both boots, reheat the rice, heat the other liner, transfer the toe caps to your other foot. By this time, the steps should go a little faster. After molding your second boot, you’re all set.

All done! Your feet will thank you.

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
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
SkiZer skates on Mount Ozbaldy at Cabin Creek.
A meadow off the Nordic trails at Cabin Creek.

Soft Turns Amid the Trees at Red Mountain

Mike Ramsey turns amid the trees at Red Mountain.

The SkiZer finished off a trip to Canada with a day at Red Mountain Resort.

It was a challenging day on a challenging mountain. A new storm had dumped a few inches of snow, and fog shrouded the top of Granite Peak. Coverage was a little thin on lower slopes and shortly after arrival, the new snow turned to freezing rain.

The SkiZer made do. Red Mountain is a big place — a rough mountain built on tree-skiing. Luckily, I had snow host Mike Ramsey to show me around.

Over the next few hours, Ramsey guided me around the Red, uncovering few excellent powder stashes in the trees. Even though the freezing rain was a challenge, the snow remained soft and creamy in most places.

Facing a seven-hour drive home, the SkiZer split at 1:30 p.m. It was a short day, not nearly enough time to digest everything Red had to offer. Next time.

Day 14: Red Mountain

  • Vertical for the day: 12,000
  • Vertical for the year: 222,000
Several rustic private cabins sit amid the trees on Red Mountain’s vast terrain.
A snowboarder glides on fresh snow on the north side of Granite Peak.

Eating Well, Skiing Well at Whitewater

The base area of Whitewater Ski Resort.

You have to love a small resort that seems to do everything well.

Whitewater Ski Resort near Nelson, British Columbia, has fantastic terrain, great snow, a very cool locals vibe and, believe it or not, excellent slopeside food.

The SkiZer started the day with a Morning Glory Breakfast Sandwich: Egg, chedder, tomato and pea shoots on whole wheat flatbread. Awesome!

Lunch was even better: A Chicken Bahn Mi Sandwich, served with Tuscan pasta salad. You have to love those carbs after shredding the challenging slopes of Whitewater.

Whitewater has so many things going for it. It makes the most of its three lifts by serving more than 2,300 acres within its boundaries. The elevation at the lodge is 5,400 feet, higher than many ski areas top elevations in the Cascades.

Then there’s the wonderful town of Nelson, which is filled with galleries, shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. It all works.

Day 13: Whitewater

  • Vertical for the day: 20,000
  • Vertical for the year: 210,000
A backcountry skier heads into the 5-Mile area at the top of the Silver King chair.
Ed Wall checks out the menu at the food truck at the base of the Glory Ridge chair.
Ed Wall skis trees near the top of the Summit Lift at Whitewater.

Epic Day at Revelstoke After a Foot New

Powder hounds get ready for an big day at the base of Revelstoke.

A foot of new snow at Revelstoke is a great way to begin a tour of  the “Powder Highway.”

It was the first visit for the SkiZer at the famed resort. Not a bad start — great tree skiing and face shots all morning long as the storm kept dumping.

It was hard to pick out a favorite — every run was exceptional, thanks to “hero snow” as my ski companion Brent Strand termed it. My other ski buddy for the day, Chris Pawlitsky, sniffed out all the best lines, thanks to a lifelong career guiding in the Revelstoke area.

It was a great introduction to Revelstoke. The SkiZer looks forward to a return trip.

Day 11: Revelstoke

  • Vertical for the day: 16,000
  • Vertical for the year: 162,000
Chris Pawlitsky (foreground) and Brent Strand find freshies in the trees at Revelstoke.
Brent Strand shreds a powder pillow at Revelstoke.