Monday, January 21, 2008

Visiting Washington, trying ski boards

I just got back from the last leg of my extended ski trip. I did three days in Washington State with a couple of my friends there. The flight got in late Thursday night, so we pretty much just dragged my ridiculous amount of stuff upstairs to there apartment, which is quite nice, and crashed. One of my friends already had a belay shift scheduled at her climbing gym and her boyfriend had work on Friday, so I slept in and then caught up with her at the gym and did some climbing on something other than truss, and then we did some night skiing at Alpental, one of the four sections of the Snoqualmie resort.

My friend has been trying to talk me into trying ski boards for a while, so I did. It was interesting to have something only 99cm long attached to my ski boots. They're very wide and have very short turning radii - this set had about a 7.5m sidecut. I found that it was very difficult to try to ski them with bases flat or in long-radius turns. The extreme sidecut kept hooking up, so trying to ski them flat they acquired a lot of speed wobble, and they had a hooky, harsh feel in long radius turns. I could use the same short-radius technique that I do on skis, though. I also found that they had a very small sweet spot compared to any of my skis. Unless I was on my forefoot and exerting a fair amount of forward pressure, I had a hard time engaging the shovels or getting the edges of the boards to grip. I was a little surprised to find that I started losing control when I thought I was centering my weight - I thought before trying ski boards that I wouldn't want to be forward near as much as on skis.

Aside from trying ski boarding, the Alpental trip was a lot like night skiing anywhere else. It's supposed to have amazing in-bounds backcountry, so I'm going to have to revisit it during the day at some point.

Our plan on Saturday was to do Alpental again, but due to various circumstances, none of us woke up until about 10am. We figured at that point that we'd do an afternoon half-day. Since it's Martin Luther King weekend, by the time we got there, the parking lots were full. We ended up driving to a random small town in the East Cascades, Leavenworth. Leavenworth has Gothic script on all the signs. Once there, we discovered that they had a ski hill. So we went. It turned out to be two rope tows. I felt a little ridiculous with my custom-fitted boots and Volkl Mantras. Actually, I felt a lot ridiculous. The Volkls have a minimum speed before they start turning cleanly for me. At most mountains, it's not a very big deal to get up to speed - on the kind of run I like, usually I acquire enough speed just dropping in. Here, I had to straightline half of the longer run and then I could turn twice. The frustrating aspect of this is that Leavenworth Ski Hill isn't a small hill. They just don't run the tow very far up the mountain. Since nutcracker tows are illegal in the US, I suppose it would take a pretty large capital investment for them to use the hills they have, but I would gladly pay to ride a fixed-grip double to the top of what they have if it did go to the top. We ended up skiing the smaller run backwards a bunch of times and driving back to Seattle.

Sunday was the trip to Mt. Baker. Mt. Baker ski resort has some pretty sweet inbounds terrain, apparently formed by a combination of volcanic and glacial activity. It's quite steep, with interesting cliff bands, steep face runs, and some bowls and gullies. There was about four inches of fluff on top of older but decent quality snow. While it had been tracked out by the time we started making turns, it was fluffy enough not to pack too badly and the slopes were steep enough to deny access to people who couldn't ski it, so it was lots of fun all day. The Volkls rocked. They made the surface ski smoother and deeper than it was, turned when I wanted them to, and didn't get stuck or hook up, and they're deliciously stable. They're like magic skis.

Now I just need to figure out my next trip.

These three days were days 26-28 for me this season.

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