Cross-country skiing at Mill Creek, Washington Cascades; January 2014

On January 23 I went on the second of five Outing Club trips.  There is still very little snow in the mountains (the whole west coast has been affected, and California is having a serious drought).  Lance took us to the Stevens Pass Nordic Center, which gave us a group discount price for track passes.  Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 12.29.27 PM

Stevens Pass is at 4,000 feet elevation, a thousand higher than Snoqualmie.  Lance said there thin snowwere two to three feet of snow here.  To me it looked more like three to six inches; the area was riddled with bare spots of brown grass.  But the groomers had collected snow from the adjoining hillsides to bolster their trails, so the skiing was surprisingly good.  And the sunshine, after a week of foggy gloom in Seattle, was delightful.

Mill Creek isn’t a large trail system; and parts of it weren’t groomed.  I started up “Scenic,” an ungroomed trail.  It turned out to be thin and icy and full of holes; I soon gave up on it.

A snowy clearing around a high-voltage tower looked more promising.  The snow was unmarked other than a pattern of wind-ripples, like the top of a lemon-meringue pie.  But it turned out to be quite hard, and my skis made barely any mark on it.  When I ventured onto a gentle slope beyond the tower, I glided down it unable to stop, until I fell over a short drop-off to the ski trail below it.  A real skier would have gloried in the “air.”  I opted for a face-plant instead, crossing the trail ignominiously on my stomach before grating to a stop.  I lay there briefly to savor the Wiley Coyote moment.  Mercifully, nobody else was there to witness it; my reputation as a great skier was unmarred.

I skied further up the trail in the warm sun, and couldn’t resist trying the fresh snow again.  Groomed snow is all very well, but its looseness makes it hard to be in control.  (Tho what I should be controlling is my own impulsiveness.)  Fresh snow has structure; when I put my edges into it I can steer, while in loose, groomed snow, trying to steer just moves snow around.  By this time the sun had warmed the snow enough so I could get a grip.  I had a lovely glide down a narrow meadow toward Mill Creek, which I could hear but not see.  I decided to try to see it.

I took off my skis and worked my way thru the underbrush and down the embankment, but the vine mapleschannel was full of trees and bushes and I couldn’t see it.  I gave up, and put my skis back on.  But then on my way out of the woods I came to a much better place.  I took off my skis, slithered down the embankment again with a ski pole for help, and took pictures from there.  I could see by marks in the steep snow bank that somebody had sidestepped all the way down it, wearing skis, even tho there was obviously no room to ski on the tiny shelf of snow at the bottom.  That guy was crazy, not like me.

It was time to go back, so I headed down the main ski trail.  But it was so tame after the bushwhacking I’d been doing that, when I met some women arguing about whether to ski down a hilly side trail, I just took it.  They carefully snowplowed down the first little hill; I sailed down it full speed, the intrepid, secretly mediocre skier.  The trail led to a bridge over the river with a fine view off each side requiring no effort at all to photograph.  Which I did, but I’m convinced that those pictures aren’t as good; they were too easily won.Mill Creek


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