Deep days: Highlights and reflections from a couple of months off
Published: March 18, 2023
Just over a week into December of 2022 I put in my notice at Facebook. That evening my internal access was quietly revoked and I turned off my work laptop for the last time there. I had my next job lined up at the end of January and the plan was pretty simple: ski as much as my body could take and follow good snow as partners and conditions allowed.
This was roughly the same plan I had when I moved to Seattle back in March of 2020, planning to road-trip my way up skiing along the way while I moved from Austin. Unfortunately, I was about one day in when all ski resorts were closed following one of the first US covid outbreaks happening in Vail and my ski trip turned into an anxious sprint to Washington during the early days of the pandemic. A few years later and a better skier I was looking forward to getting some time between jobs.
The plan worked out pretty well. I skied a lot of pow with good friends.
A December to remember
This December was excellent in Washington. Continual cold storms hammered the mountains.
I learned that you can cut down a Christmas tree with a cheap permit from the forest service on public lands.
I celebrated the new job with a new-to-me pair of skis I traded some bindings and cash for. Anson and I broke them in by skiing a couloir in the crystal backcountry we’d had our eyes on for a long time.
The very next day some friends and I were up and into the Snoqualmie backcountry to ski the slot, which is probably the most popular steep line in the state - with about half of Seattle’s backcountry skiers lining up on top of it after any storm. We found it in somewhat spicy early season conditions, with a chopped and steep entrance and a narrow choke. A few hours after, a few friends skied it and one took a pretty horrific fall in the entrance - tumbling nearly 1000 feet to the outlet of the line and somehow walking away with only a broken ski boot and slightly tweaked knee.
I took the down time to watch a friend-of-a-friends dog over a weekend while they were out of town. It was fun seeing how Sophie would deal with another dog in the house — and the result of the experiment was that I’m now much more seriously considering a second dog in the near future.
Still watching the dog, a few of us got out for a quick morning trip skiing Bryant Couloir, a personal favorite of mine offering an engaging ski descent with a very fast approach. I’ve skied it twice in a morning and still been to work at a reasonable hour in prior seasons. It was still feeling a little early season with some exposed rock at the top and a choke that had an exposed rappel anchor! We had a good morning skiing.
A friend and I had a bluebird day at Crystal and I learned first hand that a jump landing on skis is enough for newer iPhones to automatically call 911. I disabled the feature on a chair lift after explaining to a very patient operator that I wasn’t having a medical emergency and there was no car crash.
I brought in 25 with a great day of touring powder with a couple of friends in Snoqualmie. We hit Cache Couloir, which I hadn’t done before and found super fun. It’s steep, long, and wide enough to open up. After that we headed across a frozen Snow Lake with Wright mountain seeming like an appropriate birthday objective. Spying better turns on Roosevelt we headed up onto one of its flanks and descended wide-open powder down to the lake before heading back up the pass and out to the cars. Deep stable powder with friends was about the best gift I could have asked for.
Seattle got hit with a rare winter snow storm. We played with the dog in the snow and stocked up for a Christmas feast.
The snow at Snoqualmie Pass was being measured in feet and temperatures were in the single digits. We headed out to a favorite quiet powder stash and ran laps on it after putting in our skin track. These remain some of the highest quality turns I’ve had this winter. I blew a ski off and we spent almost an hour digging/probing/wallowing looking for it before finding it buried several feet under the surface on the far side of a tree well. Leashes are a good idea when it’s this deep and light.
Chloe and I headed up to the pass for some afternoon skiing. Windchill was below -10F. We suffered through a couple of laps on the lifts before deciding it wasn’t worth it and heading for home and warm coffee.
The roads in Western Washington were pure ice. Neighborhood streets looked like ice rinks and social media was full of videos of cars sliding down hills. We decided to head for Crystal. An arduous drive that was multiple hours longer than usual, we made it to the resort. Chloe skied her first chute - Banana Chute.
Temperatures rose and rain hit the mountains. I focused on gear maintenance - replacing my touring liners, waxing skis, and super gluing my touring boots’ boot board back into one piece.
A friend held a big dinner for people in town. Anson and I smoked our first large brisket. It turned out excellently.
Powder returned to the mountains. I got my first core shot in my powder skis - finally proving that the bases aren’t actually indestructible. I started working larger cliff drops off of Northway chair at Crystal.
An excellent bluebird day skiing more powder in the Crystal backcountry.
I got to join Chloe for one of her first ski tours in Snoqualmie. It was heavy wet snow, but a great day with our friends.
We planned and failed on a pretty miserable attempt on Snowfield peak. I may write a full report on this at some point soon. We basically spent a full day wallowing up and ended up over a thousand feet short of the alpine, realized we didn’t have sufficient fuel to disinfect water from dirty snow, and had to cut things a night short. It was worth the adventure.
Anson and I hit Crystal for some powder skiing. I lost my phone on a run after leaving my coat pocket opened, but someone found it and turned it into the lifties so I got it after retracing my run.
We then hit the road to Tahoe, chasing an incoming storm.
Tahoe was having (and has since continued to have) one of their deepest winters in decades. The forecast was for several feet of snow (median estimates were 60 inches in 24 hours). We lined up a room to crash in and figured if we drove all night we could beat the storm in before highways closed. We were right. We made it to Palisades (formerly Squaw) by first chair. The storm hadn’t shown up quite yet and much of the resort was on a wind hold, but we had a blast exploring KT-22.
Our host was awesome. She was a long-time Tahoe local and gave us some excellent ideas for lower-angle areas to ski. We were up early putting in a skin track. We skied a ton of laps of excellent powder, and the sun came out giving us stunning views of Lake Tahoe. What a welcome to California. We only saw a couple of people all morning. We met up with a college friend of mine for an afternoon skiing Alpine and had a blast.
We had a great day skiing the resort waiting for the next big storm to hit.
The next big storm hit and we had a blast skiing through it. Most of the mountain was on hold the first day, but it didn’t matter since there was so much good off of KT-22. The afternoon of the 11th we headed in to Moment Ski’s headquarters and picked up some demos from them. It’s a cool factory.
The sun finally peaked out and we got a chance to ski the palisades! It was awesome to get a chance to get on such a legendary face.
Our last morning in Tahoe and we decided to head out for another tour. We ended up bailing before the top as conditions were pretty awful. On our way down we ran into Cody Townsend and his crew out for the same tour! The poor conditions didn’t turn them around.
We hit the road back north, with plans to spend the weekend at Mt Bachelor.
We met up with Chloe and some of our friends at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. We had a fantastic few days of skiing here as well. I’d never been to Bachelor, nor Bend. It’s a cool mountain and I’m excited to hopefully go back later this spring.
Two friends of mine got married at Crystal and I got the chance to be one of their witnesses! It was a beautiful sunny day for it, and a heartwarming, tiny, and unique ceremony that suited them super well. We signed the marriage certificate in the Snorting Elk.
I toured up to Bullion Basin for the first time with a couple of friends who are relatively new to backcountry skiing. We had an awesome day. Beautiful views, good snow, and good company.
Another Crystal resort day to round out my time off! The next day I flew out to San Francisco to onboard at my new job and return to skiing being a primarily weekend activity.
This was a really cool opportunity and I’m glad I was able to take the time between jobs! The timing lined up with some rare conditions and made for excellent memories. I’m grateful that I had friends and family who were able to also get out into the mountains a ton during this period.
I’m sure I could have done it for a bit longer, but by the end I was feeling like it was time to get back to writing code in some form - with thoughts brewing for some side projects I’ve now started to explore a bit and will write about once they’re in a place worth sharing. It was also tough to stay on top of the responsibilities of daily life being out so much and fatigued when I was home.