It was Terri’s spring break and we decided to head for the hills. We packed the car (a Ford Focus) with four pair of alpine skis, two pair of XC skis, snowshoes, boots, clothes, food, water, sleeping bags, pillows, maps, electronic gear, and tunes. Thank goodness for the back seat, it was full of junk too. We were headed for who-knows-where; a road trip of the first kind.
We knew our first two stops: Seattle, (Where we lunched at the Space Needle and attended a concert by the Count Basie Orchestra, a performance befitting its own report, but on another forum) and then my cabin near Stevens Pass. After that we intended to follow our noses wherever the snow led them.
April Fools Day:
Seventh Heaven at Stevens (file photo, though it looked pretty much like this)
After a cozy night at the cabin we awoke to a snow report of 4” of new, cool temperatures, and snowing at the Pass. We packed up and headed out for a day of changing skiing. To begin the day it blew very hard, causing several chairs to be put on wind delay. As the day wore on the sun peaked through the clouds and the wind slowed to a dull howl. While there was plenty of wind packed snow there was also some great stuff if you looked in the right places, and some of it was fairly deep. Powder (the real stuff) came up around our waists in several spots. We had a ball finding and slaying the good stuff.
Leaving Stevens after this schizophrenic day, we headed down the road to Wenatchee, WA, home of Mission Ridge and found a room. We went out to dinner at a place the woman behind the desk at our hotel recommended: Carlos 1800. If you’re ever in Wenatchee, look this place up, it’s fantastic. It’s Mexican food like you’ve never had before. They use a special spice that is incredibly tasty, and have great service with an upbeat, fun atmosphere.
This was on the table in the lodge. I don't agree that Canadians are some sort of liability. However, 3.2 beer...
Leaving our hotel with time to spare we headed to Mission Ridge, just 12 miles out of town. We thought we were early but there were a lot of cars there when we arrived. There was an FIS race going on and they had a piece of the mountain blocked off, but most of those cars seemed to belong to the race crowd, so there was no problem with crowding or long lines.
The wind was still blowing a bit on top, but there were blue skies and cold enough temperatures that the snow that had been falling all week was still light and dry. The grooming was immaculate and the skiing off the groomed was wonderful. They had gotten an inch of new overnight so there was a nice covering.
We enjoyed the heck out of this day. It was Terri’s first time in at least 30 years at Mission and only my third. The first time I had been there it was hard ice with no visibility due to the dense, freezing fog, and the second time it was in the middle of a heavy storm. I finally got a look at the place. It’s beautiful! Check it out:
Wing memorial from a WWII era bomber that crashed here, killing its crew. This is right next to the groomed run.
Wenatchee and the Columbia River, looking north
After shutting the place down we left Mission and Wenatchee and headed north for Winthrop, WA. We arrived in Winthrop just as dusk was coming on and the huge deer herds were starting to roam the open fields. If we were 30 minutes later we might have had road kill stuck to our bumper. We settled down in a nondescript motel and had a restful night.
Winthrop is a small tourist trap on SR 20 near Mazama, site of the formerly proposed Early Winters Resort development. A large destination ski resort was slated to be constructed in this idyllic valley, but concerted efforts by local residents stopped the project. This place is out of the way, beautiful and relatively pristine so I, for one, am glad that they were successful. I don’t need another Whistler.
We spent the morning exploring the valley and then headed up to Loup Loup Pass, site of Loup Loup Ski Bowl, which unfortunately was already closed for the season. The Loup is a small, community owned ski area that has 1200 feet of vertical. I’ve always wanted to ski there but, alas, all we could do was XC through the woods at the base of the mountain. It is an exceptionally beautiful and out of the way place. There was absolutely nobody anywhere around and we skied in complete silence and beauty. I love Alpine skiing, but this could really change somebody’s mind.
After skiing a short loop at The Loup we loaded up and headed north through Washington’s Okanagan country where we saw lots of fruit orchards which were in the process of being pruned. It looks like a lot of work! Soon we crossed into British Columbia and their Okanagan region. There are many, many wineries all along the highway as well as fruit orchards and grapes. You could spend an awful lot of time and money here!
Yay for EpicSki! I posted about our trip and mentioned that we would possibly be stopping in Penticton, BC to ski at Apex and I got a PM from Joal, a Bear who is an Apex local and lives in town. He kindly offered his spare room and to guide us around the mountain for a day. How great is that? We found his home with a stunning view (actually most of Penticton could be described that way) and were warmly greeted.
For the gear heads among you dear readers, you should get to know Joal. He has the most amazing collection of undrilled historic skis as well as a rack of old bindings, many in the box, and boots. I mentioned that I have always wanted a pair of Head Standards and he not only had a pair but they were brand new and un-mounted. He had everything I could imagine and much, much more. It was mind boggling!
I should also mention that Joal is an extremely gifted wood worker. He has some beautiful furniture. One piece that blew my mind was a table that has a scalloped edge on the top. How he bent the wood (Terri says it's sanded) into those perfectly smooth oscillations is a mystery. It was amazing.
We hit Apex at 9:00 and there were maybe 50 cars in the lot. Very few came in after us. The place was nearly empty, there was an inch of new on top of some firm stuff but there was a lot of good groomed runs as well as plenty of skiable bumps. Apex is a great mountain that gets little notice outside of the local area. This was my first visit and I was quite impressed. It won't be my last.
Joal showed us all over the place, it really helps to have a guide on your first day. He is a superior bump skier. We would ski down the groomed run and I would slow as we entered the steeper bumps, but Joal just kept on at the same speed and rhythm, completely under control. He slays it! I felt like a piker.
Posaune L, Joal R, undrilled Hexels in the background. Notice the groovy vests.
Saying a fond farewell, we left Penticton and headed up the road to Vernon, BC, just down the road from Silver Star Mountain Resort. We got a room in a Best Western and settled in.
This was going to be a day off from skiing. We explored the local area and decided that if we ever leave Bellingham we’re heading to Vernon. It’s a beautiful area, surrounded by stunning lakes and mountains. We had a nice day.
Access T bar and top of Putnam Creek area
I called Silver Star to find out if they had a discount for season pass holders from other ski areas and the lady told me that since tickets were $25 this week that there was no discount! OK.
As we got on the lift for our first run we loaded with a couple (Doug and Marcy) who asked us if we knew the mountain. We weren’t newbies, but we didn’t know it well. It turns out that Doug is a mountain host who was off duty and free skiing, but he offered to show us around anyway. We ended up skiing the entire day with them.
We spent most of our time in the Putnam Creek drainage, which is home to some great steep bump terrain. It is a huge area served by only one quad, which was not filled. The slopes were seemingly empty. The snow was generally hard, but Doug was knowledgeable about where the conditions would be best and we had some fantastic runs down some pretty gnarly terrain.
Vernon and one of the many, many lakes
These are great people at a super ski resort and we couldn’t have had a better day, ending with beers and dinner. We got to see Marcy’s house there, which is a three story, five-bedroom place that sleeps 15. It makes my cabin look like a tarpaper shack.
Completing the loop we drove home, 5.5 hours through beautiful mountains, forests, and green fields. It was a perfect end to our trip, except for the fact that Terri got sick on our last night, making the drive home less than ideal. She’s still recovering. Still, it was a great trip and we’re already thinking about doing another one next season.
Edited for accuracy.
Edited by Posaune - 4/9/12 at 4:25pm