May Powder Skiing – The Bonus Season

Winter knocked on the door here in the Northwest last week. Incredible conditions were had throughout the Cascades. I made it out around Hood for several days of skiing and here are a couple of reports from  Central and North Cascades that saw winter-like conditions as well.  North Cascade Mountain Guides Cinco de Pow report.

Don Pattison and friends made out in the North and Central Cascades as well. Below is Pattison’s trip report and a short video clip skiing near Alpental, WA.


When you’re in your 50’s, it’s not easy pulling college buddies together for a ski-mountaineering safari.  Jobs (or lack of), kids, wives, girlfriends, and out-of-shape excuses all pile on to damn the phone call and e-mail plans.  After a two year hiatus from the the trip, I drove to SeaTac, picked-up my Duluth, MN buddy Dr. Woody and we powered on to Green Lake in Seattle to intervene on, our pal, Ralph’s soccer coaching obligations.  Slug-belly Puget Sound skies gave way to broken clouds and frosty peaks as we ascended Rainy Pass and made that epic hair-pin turn on Washington Pass.  The Birthday Tour is a classic for good reason.  We ascended the Spire Gully, instead of the Blue Lake approach and the required car shuttle.  Mild weather and snow conditions allowed for a good descent of Madison Avenue, and although dark clouds threatened rain, we skied down a nice powder-to-crud staircase, via Hidden Gully, to the car.

The hospitable Klipchuck Campground, with no snow, open restrooms and a no-fee-yet policy was an easy deal.  It rained and then snowed all night, however, so WSDOT closed the the Pass at Silver Star Creek the next morning, thereby changing our plans.  Not to be shut down completely, we opted to move passes and hatched a three pass quest. Born from the denial of access to WA Pass our new plan was to hit Stevens Pass and Snoqualamie.  Ralph and I have fond memories of Big Chief lift at Stevens Pass Ski Area. The lifts were closed for the season, but  it was snowing like a bastard and the lift line run was our call.  No tracks, a solid snowpack and no people are the best reason to ski closed ski resorts.  It’s a short hike for some great (ok pretty good) powder turns.

Lured by beers, showers and beds, we returned to Seattle, for the night, and casually rolled I-90 up to Snoqualmie Pass the next morning.  A foot of new May snow was predicted and appeared.  Four cars were in the Alpemtal parking lot.  We railed the up-track to the top of International lift, and dropped International run like ski patrollers at dawn.  Plenty of crotch shots, all round.  Apparently it’s true…it’s not over till it’s over!