Classic El Nino in December

Published 2010-01-03

It’s the end of December in the Northwest and it’s been 6 weeks since we have released a skiing blog. It’s not because we aren’t getting out and it’s not because we’re slacking. There just isn’t any snow to write about. The east cost and mid west have teamed up to steal December’s allotment of precipitation. I’ve been in Seattle for two weeks and we have accumulated 2 inches of snow at the pass. For an area that boasts 6” of precipitation through the month of December we have fallen well short. As it stands, I have skied two days in a resort this season, with none of them in Washington. It just isn’t worth skidding down an ice slope on rock skis. The boards I have reserved for the thin snow pack haven’t touched a file or a grind stone in over 5 years. With several separated edges and chunks of core littered on rocks in the northwest it’s not the first season these skis have been classified in the rock category. With ample coverage thanks to a large November storm we headed to the backcountry two take advantage of the wind distributed facets. A quick hike into the Alpental backcountry brought my brother, sister and me to wind loaded pockets of snow over a sun crust.

Jeff Christenson drops into the Alpental backcountry

Slashing a turn on the tooth

With light fading fast, Tracy set up for a shot on a ridge in front of The Tooth. It was not her first photo shoot and she nailed her one turn down the shoulder with dust on crust to a spectacular finish in a tree. With the sun behind the peak and no more chances for stopping action we wrapped up for holiday events.

Hike to Chair Peak

The high pressure system held strong, with clear days and cold nights producing new snow in the form of facets. To ensure a smooth transition between family events, my mom scheduled a morning off before hosting her side of the family. My brother and I jumped at the opportunity and were out of the house by 5 am. My father who was aware of our plan the night before laughed at the idea of an icy dawn patrol. While racing the sun, we skinned as far as we could but resorted to boot packing when the relentless icy slopes would not allow for uphill travel.

Kicking up Snow

Chair Peak became the background for the sunrise and we quickly manufactured turns on a sunny wind loaded shoulder. We skied as long as the light held then turned back to the iced southeast face toward the car. The pictures we earned did not reflect the same morning my dad experienced at Alpental. Four hours late and just down the ridge my father took advantage of firm corduroy.

Hucking the first run