Epic powder days! On hot summer nights we dream about bouncing through the deeps. We pine over forecasts and snow reports. We count up our sick days, or as I like to call them, mental heath days. Powder days can be elusive as storms move too far north or south, or other life plans get in the way. But when they happen, we love to regal our friends about the runs, the refreshed tracks, the quality of the snow: blower powder, whip cream, cold smoke, over the boots, full on snorkel, and swimming back to the lodge.
Powder days can destroy your legs at the same time they elevate your spirit. They can humble you while they let you play the hero. You can make instant friends whooping across a glade or get lost to the magic of a white washed forest. We are lucky to have so many skiing and riding options in the Inland Northwest, where we can track the storms and head for the mountains with the biggest dumps. And with a strong skiing community, there is no lack of intrepid riding partners. The saying is “No friends on powder days,” but in my experience that is when your true friends shine. Enjoy these five tales of epic powder days from our local mountains!
Mt. Spokane: Too Deep for Beefcake
Mandy Marek is the mom that wants to shred with her kids as opposed to hanging in the lodge. In January 2016 she headed to Mt. Spokane with her 5-year-old son, known by mountain staff as beefcake due to his compact stature. The prospect of getting her son out on an 18-inch powder day was just too temping. The plan was to run some laps off of chair 3. But on the first run Mandy’s son magically went from a 5 year old to a 3 year old. Beefcake was just too short to power through all the powder. Many of us know the feeling of being transported to the blissful days of childhood on a powder day, and some of us may also have had to struggle when the snow is just too deep. After taking an hour on the first run, Mandy and Beefcake had to call it quits so they could come back and shred the mountain another day.
Lookout’s Biggest Dump in the World
Bill Fuzak is a main stay at the local mountains, having skied them for few dozen years. I have frequently found Fuzak lurking and hooting in the tree stashes at Mt. Spokane. But this tale of epic powder unfolded at Lookout Pass on March 20, 2012. Lookout Pass had the most snowfall “in the world” that week, with 46 inches in just two days! He was forced to lap Purgatory under the North Star lift, the only face steep enough to deal with all that snow. Bill has the experience to push his way through the deep stuff. No backseat action for him. He rocked his 115-underfoot Line skis and fully extended on the up swing of his turns. Take it from a seasoned master to show you the proper technique for riding deep powder.
Fresh Tracks Forever at 49
Landon has been skiing local mountains since he was 2. He was a ski racer and spent some time being sponsored in Colorado, so he knows a powder day when one comes his way. One Friday last season, Landon drove up to 49 Degrees North in a white out. His buddy Brad was already in line for first chair, and Landon was able to slip right in. They spent the first few runs lapping the fresh tracks from the midway stop on the bonanza lift. They spent the morning slashing the powder, stopping to check their surroundings and then slashing some more. As more people arrived on the scene, they then headed over to the trees along Silver Ridge where the hero snow let them get air on every knob and feature without fear of bottoming out. Toward the end of the day they got creative and headed for some secret stashes off of Lost Dutchman. Here they did not cross a single track for the rest of a blissful, exhausting day.
White Gold Rush at Silver
Although Nigel is more likely clad in Lycra atop a bike or a pair of skate skis, he can’t say no when the prospect of a powder day is looming. During Sunday of President’s Day weekend 2012, with a buddy in town from the west side, they headed to Silver Mountain. That previous days had brought a few inches here and there, so they were thinking it would be an above average day but not epic. Then the noon hour came and the snow began to fall in earnest; between noon and last chair 12 inches of fluffy powder came down! The pair headed to chair 4 and repeatedly lapped from top to bottom. They prospected for powder, dug for white gold, and found solitude on the blue and black runs without crossing tracks. The powder day comradery was palpable, and they were “whooping repeatedly to Wardner’s wonders,” calling to those intrepid souls hiking up Wardner Peak. The snow came so quick during that afternoon that Fourth of July Pass was almost closed. Lucky for them they made it back to town so they could get out and ski another epic on that long weekend. // (Adam Gebauer)
When Adam Gebauer is not teaching skiing or summiting a mountain, he is wrangling his herd of goats and running Syringa Ecological Consulting. He wrote about Canada lynx in October.