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Mt. Baker, 1/1

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I grew up in the Seattle area, but had never been to Mt. Baker before (for skiing). I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that what I saw yesterday was not Mt. Baker at the peak of its powers.

 

Paid: $56.10 for some reason.

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 9/10

Weather: Partly sunny very early, then high overcast most of the rest of the day.

Would Return?: So I wouldn't go out of my way *not* to return.

 

I went to Baker because it was the only place within three(-ish) hours of my annual holiday headquarters in Tacoma that was "fully open". Although I think that of all ski resorts in the world, Baker is probably among those for which you can least easily gauge its openness by open trail percentages. Plus there were a couple trails that, once you were there, weren't actually open. Snow was pretty firm, eventually softening up on the intermediate slopes (Chair 8), but never on the steeper pitches (1 and 6). Fortunately, there were a lot of soft-enough bumps on the intermediates on Chair 8; unfortunately, there were also a lot of neophytes trying to snow plow down them.

 

I was also surprised by the boarders here -- it reminded me of the 1990s, but not in a good way. Every off-load, I was having to take evasive action to avoid the snowboarder pile. In numerous places it seemed like a flash mob of boarders had decided to reenact The Day After the Battle of Gettysburg. I'm guessing this all had a lot to do with skiing on 1/1 with kids still not back in school where they forever belong. That said, it was much worse than skiing on 12/28 at White Pass last year. Given that there were no lift lines and there were plenty of open parking spaces, the skiing felt oddly crowded.

 

I had fun, but this was clearly not Baker skiing like Baker can ski.

 

That said, the views were great (see below) and, IMHO, the views alone make Baker worth visiting. The lifties were exemplary (except in getting people to clear away from the offload area). Despite the paucity of snow throughout the west, the hazards here were minimal and easily avoided. Weather and visibility were both very good. Lodge food was neither extraordinary nor expensive -- a tradeoff I was more than happy with. Parking-to-lift was among the best ever (parked at White Salmon, second row, very easy access to the ticket booth and then C-7).

 

Had good on-lift conversations the few times chair sharing happened. It seems like I get my best perspectives on life, activity, and aging from 60+-year-old random lift strangers; gratitude to them.

 

Some photos (all from about 9-10:30 AM):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I ever were to get into back-country skiing or had someone willing to show me the ropes at Baker, I'd go back in a heartbeat. The out-of-bounds you can see from the chairs looks amazing. However, given the practicality of it being 3+ hours away and the occasional oddness of the on-piste offerings (I got the impression that the lift layout may have been designed by Pittsburgh-based city planners), with decent snow and weather conditions and given my skiing preferences it would be hard for me to justify Baker over the easier access to Crystal. For the "laid-back and local" feeling, I think I preferred White Pass's relative politeness and self-awareness (perhaps Yakima County does a better job of youth control than Whatcom). That said, I would consider myself extremely lucky to have Baker as my local mountain.

 

o

post #2 of 6

I think you nailed it. 

 

Quote:
 I was also surprised by the boarders here -- it reminded me of the 1990s, but not in a good way. Every off-load, I was having to take evasive action to avoid the snowboarder pile. In numerous places it seemed like a flash mob of boarders had decided to reenact The Day After the Battle of Gettysburg. I'm guessing this all had a lot to do with skiing on 1/1 with kids still not back in school where they forever belong.

That's been my experience too, but not just on holidays. When I've been it seems like the place is 80% 20 y.o. snowboarding males. 

 

Quote:
 the views alone make Baker worth visiting.

And this. The North Cascades are stunning. Even the view from the parking lot, with Shuksan in your face like that.

 

I've always thought that if I skied OOB I'd probably think Baker was amazing, but for someone that stays in bounds, the terrain/demographic don't warrant the 3 hour drive.

post #3 of 6

Yeah, you nailed it in the OP.  With the usual 100"+ snow pack you would have had a lot more skiing, but so far this year is not there yet.   If you stay on the chair 8 & 5 side of the hill you will definitely experience the mess of boarders blocking all passage.  It's a little better on 6 & 1, but can still be a problem.  When more terrain is open there are less people on any particular part of the mountain, so it's better during most years.  It's also much, much better on weekdays.  Weekends and holidays are lots worse.

 

The young, male, hard-core wannabe crowd is pretty thick for sure.  The OB is fantastic, but is filled with these guys and it can get pretty tracked out unless you go far out of bounds.  They're so into skiing out of bounds that they ignore great powder inbounds.  I've skied on Gabl's when there were lots of untracked lines, but the side country lines just outside the boundary rope were completely shredded. They will go out no matter what the avalanche danger is.  On the day of the Stevens Pass disaster of two seasons ago they were everywhere out of bounds even though the avalanche danger was extreme. 

 

I would never go all the way from Tacoma to ski at Baker, it just isn't worth it over Crystal.  I ski there because it is close to home, not because it is superior to anything else around.

post #4 of 6

Baker would be the perfect place but a midweek powder day, but I always lived too far away to take that opportunity. And always found Crystal a far superior mountain all around, and a place where I've had epic powder days.

 

And as a new-ish Pittsburgh resident, I appreciate your views on trail planning too ;)

post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by gortonator View Post
 

Baker would be the perfect place [on] a midweek powder day...


It's MIGHTY crowded on all big powder days until the hill is tracked out, but at about 10:30 or 11:00 when there is no more new snow the place empties and the kids go back to school or work.  It's a fantastic place for skiing deep crud for the rest of the day.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the comments. Sorry to hear my experience wasn't more anomalous -- I was (obviously) assuming those issues were holiday-related. Still, scenery was great and the six-hour round trip still beat sitting at home watching my dad argue with the TV all day.

 

o

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