ExtraHyperActive: Cross country/ski touring
Showing posts with label Cross country/ski touring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cross country/ski touring. Show all posts

When The Ski Season Is Over : 8 Snow Activities To Do At Your Local Ski Area

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Just because the lifts stopped running, doesn't mean the snow season is over. Well into the spring, there is still plenty of snow in the mountains, crowds are gone, and the weather and the snow conditions are sometimes better than during the winter months.

Below are 8 snow activities that you can do at your local ski area :

10 Amazing Pictures To Inspire You To Try Cross Country Skiing

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Truth to tell, cross country ( also known as  Nordic ) skiing is a bit boring for me. Don't get me wrong, cross country skiing does get my heart rate up and my blood pumping ! ... just not in the same exciting, adrenaline-filled way as alpine/downhill skiing does.

Cross country skiing provides amazing full body work out, builds up your cardio, but what is more important, you'll get more time to enjoy the beautiful scenic views around you.

If you've been thinking about giving cross country a go, check out these beautiful pictures, that will, hopefully, inspire you to get outside, and find your own Winter Paradise !

Fatbiking Kendall Peak In Washington State

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Even though fatbiking is gaining popularity in such outdoorsy states as Alaska, Oregon, California, Colorado, Utah, in Washington state it's still relatively new and exotic. I can personally attest that these kooky-looking bikes attract a lot of eyeballs, and everybody wants to talk to you, and give it a try.

Over the past few years fatbike popularity has skyrocketed. More and more fatbikes and fatbike brands are springing up ranging from cheap Walmart brands to expensive adventure racing and hunting specific.

Many "hard core cyclists" see these bikes with the clown sized tires as silly and unnecessary. While most definitely fatbikes are not for everyone, they aren’t just a passing fad, and they're here to stay.

Personally for me, fatbikes are all about possibilities and fun ( but I've got to admit, it's kinda cool to get all that attention too :)) !

Cross Country Skiing At The Summit At Snoqualmie

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Looking for some winter fun beyond snowboarding or downhill skiing? Try cross country skiing !


Using the recommendations from 100 Best Cross Country Ski Trails in Washington that I mentioned in my previous post, I went XC ( cross country skiing ) at the Summit at Snoqualmie.

Nordic Center at the Summit at Snoqualmie ( also known as The Summit East ) offers an incredible system of trails that boasts a network of over 50km. It's an amazing place for cross country ( nordic ) skiers and snowshoers of all ages and skill levels. Beginners and families can easily hone their skills, while experts can take on the challenge of steep terrain and an array of un-groomed runs.

100 Best Cross Country Ski Trails In Washington

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Cross country skiing is a great, invigorating, affordable, and simple-to-learn sport. Not a lot of gear required – just good, healthy fun! It is both easy and accessible.
According to Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall the authors of  100 Best Cross Country Ski Trails in Washington
The mountainous terrain throughout the entire Washington state ensures that all of Washington's residents have access to excellent cross-country skiing, whether on groomed trails, on scenic logging roads, or on open slopes of glacier-covered volcanoes.
That's true. Almost all ski areas in our state have groomed/ungroomed XC trails that are easily accessible, withing driving distance form Seattle and well maintained.

But you don't have to limit yourself to the same places.

Tips On Climbing Mt Adams

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Mount Adams, situated in the eastern Cascade range, east of Mount St Helens and north of Mount Hood, is the second most massive and the third tallest volcano in the Cascade range. Popular among hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts in general, Mt Adams is accessible year round, and visited by folks from both states - Washington and Oregon.


During summer, Mt Adams becomes a huge attraction to many "wannabe" mountaineers and ski bums. There are several climbing routes on the mountain, ranging from the "non-technical" South Climb, to highly technical routes that require advance skill, experience, and special equipment.

Because  the South Spur Route (aka South Climb, South Side, or South Rib), which initially follows the South Climb Trail #183 is crevasse-free, it provides one of the easier climbing routes and nicest ski runs on any of the northern Cascade volcanoes.

Recently, I spent 3 gorgeous days exploring the mountain, and below I'd like to share a few tips that I couldn't find answers for when I was researching my trip :


-  Driving


12 mile dirt road to the trailhead is a killer. Though I managed to get there in my Geo Metro, I highly recommend to drive something more "outdoorsy" ( like Subaru or Jeep ). On the way up, the road gets pretty narrow and sketchy. Exposed slopes make it hard and dangerous for two vehicles to pass by.

- Summer Crowds

As mentioned above, Mt Adams is very popular among hikers/climbers/skiers. During the weekend I was there, a ranger told me there were close to 300 people at the trailhead. Though when I made it to the trailhead, I could easily find a spot right by the trail.
Which brings me to another tip - don't waste your time talking to the rangers at the station in Trout Lake. Instead, talk to people who just came down from the mountain. They will be able to provide the most updated information.

- Camping At The Trailhead

Just like at Mt St Helens, you can camp right by the trail. If it does get overcrowded, you can always find space/parking/camping at the bottom of the dirt road or at Morrison Creek trailhead.

- Navigation/Trail Finding


I don't provide the description of the trail ( cause you can easily find it online ), but can definitely say its easy to follow the trail all the way to the top. So you don't have to have any special navigation/backcountry skills to climb Mt Adams....

...BUT

- Be Prepared

Weather on Mt Adams can change rapidly. Sudden snowstorms can occur above 6,000 feet elevation at any month of the year. Climbers should always prepare for bad weather and an extended stay on the mountain. I was blessed with two gorgeous sunny days on the mountain, when on the morning of my departure I woke up in pouring rain and complete whiteout.


- Stay Hydrated

Though I was told about a creek at Lunch Counter, I couldn't find one. I was glad I had my trusted JetBoil, and the old school "snow melting" was a breeze. If you would have to melt snow for a bigger group, you'd probably need a water filter as well.

- Gear

Crampons Or Micro-Spikes ? Ice axe Or Ski poles ? Rope ?

It was my second time trying out my basic ski mountaineering/ randonee gear ( skis with special bindings and skins ). I was concerned about the steep slopes, and wasn't sure I'd be able to skin up all the way to the top.
I ended up walking the majority of the route in my ski boots. But in reality, while crampons are highly recommended, you can use micro-spikes or a nice pair of hiking/mountaineering boots with aggressive treads.
You will need ice axe if you're planning chute glissading.
A rope can be very handy for a big group in case of a whiteout.

- To Ski Or Not To Ski


I was told Mt Adams was a great place for skiing in the summer. Honestly, it wasn't exactly what I experienced.
Late in the season ( I did it in late July ), a huge part of the mountain is snow free. And the portion from Lunch Counter to false summit ( (Piker's Peak) holds a consistent 25-30 degree pitch for over 2500 vertical ft. Which makes "skinning up" hard to impossible. So a big portion of the climb I did in my ski boots.

All in all, it was a great adventure ! Climbing/skiing Mt Adams has been on my Bucket List for a few years now. This post is another proof that goal setting is the way to make your dreams come true !

Cross Country Skiing And Snowshoeing MTTA ( Mt Tahoma Trails Association )

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Below is the most detailed, first hand, personally provided information on xc ( cross country ) skiing and snowshoeing MTTA in South District to High Hut, Yurt and Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut.


Hut-to-hut skiing is extremely popular in Europe. The most spectacular of hut-to-hut trails, the Haute Route through the French and Swiss Alps, is also spectacularly crowded: Cross-country pilgrims share the circuit with about 200 other skiers each day, then bunk with them at night in huge dorms festooned with sopping garments.

North America has built its own portfolio of equally impressive hut-to-huts in the years since WWII, when at least one veteran who had served as a special ski trooper in Europe returned home and later re-created the famous Alps circuits in his own backyard.

Hut-to-hut backcountry skiing has been on my Bucket List since I found out you don't need to go to Europe to have this unique experience.


A series of snow huts south of Mount Rainier near Ashford offer this amazing adventure. The Mount Tahoma trail and hut system has about 50 miles of trail (20 of it groomed), three huts and a yurt.

My plan was to spend a night at High Hut, and to wake up the next morning to have my breakfast with the view of Mt Rainier ! But unfortunately, due to its popularity, the huts were booked quickly that weekend , so instead, I had one of my epic mini/day adventures.

Here are a few tips I wish I knew before going to MTTA:

  • Do stop at the MTTA office in Ashford to get the latest info on road conditions, and directions to the Snow Park.
Look for 29815 Washington 706, Ashford, WA 98304  The address is for Ashford Fire Station, and MTTA office is located BEHIND it ( there was no sign, and was confusing to find ).

  • MOST IPORTANT -  don't forget to bring BOTH - Discover Pass AND Snow Park permit ( you can also buy both at nearby Whittaker Mountaineering store ( $22 for a day/$42 for annual Snow Park permit ). The MTTA patrollers are Nazis when it comes to writing out tickets for not having either one of the permits.

Directions to the Snow park :
  • Chances are, at MTTA office you'll be given a crappy, confusing map to the snow park. Here is an easier way : when you turn right on Kernahan Road, look for Paradise Estate on your right, stop, and look closely for the sign to the snow park (SF 85). If you continue on HWY 52/Skate Creek Rd, you'll end up on a snowmobile/snowshoeing one way trail ( me and another idiot actually drove our cars on that trail until we realized we were lost ).

The drive to the Snow Park :
  • Honestly, unless you drive 4x4 or you have faith in your vehicle, I wouldn't drive there in winter.
The road is a narrow, two way dirt road that is dotted with potholes. The few days before my visit the area had experienced a heavy snow storm which turned the road to the snow park into a one way, poorly plowed, rails-free death track. Even if you have 4x4, make sure you carry chains at all times as the weather at Mt Rainier is very unpredictable.

All three huts (High Hut, Yurt and Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut) are located in South District, and share the same Snow Park/trail (to certain extent).

The Trail:
  • The first ~1.5 mile the trail is gradually climbing up to the junction. This is the portion of the trail that is wide, groomed and well packed. 
  • This portion of the trail is so packed, that, honestly, you wouldn't even need skis or snowshoes. You can just hike ! It will keep you light and fast ! ( as you can see from the picture on top ).
Also, this portion of the trail is groom and very hard packed, but... there are NO broken tracks for xc (cross country) skiers ( which makes it hard to ski), and because it's hard pack, it really doesn't make sense to use your snowshoes.

The Junction:

  • Here the trail breaks into two directions : to High Hut (on your right), and to Yurt and Bruni's on your left.

From Junction To High Hut:


  • This portion of the trail is "poorly groomed". The tracks for snowshoers are narrow and barely broken. Once again, no tracks for skiers. I ended up hiking this part of the trail also.

The Hut:



  • Honestly I imagined it to be a bit ... roomier. Depending on occupancy, the hut can get pretty crowded. There are a couple of bunk beds on the "first floor", and more floor space on the "second level".

 Snowshoeing/Skiing With Dogs ?


  • Dogs are allowed on MTTA trails, BUT... NOT in the huts.... Also, if you're traveling with your dog(s), PLEASE KEEP THEM ON THE LEASH !

The Atmosphere:

  • Are you a social butterfly ? Do you like spending your nights in the company of complete strangers ? How about listening to their boring pathetic life stories ? Personally, I lasted about 15 minutes before getting the hell out of there, and I was glad I didn't reserve the night in the hut.

But if you're an introvert like me, and do decide to spend a night at the hut, and have your morning breakfast with the killer view of Mt Rainier, consider brining some booze, ear plugs, and your favorite book to survive the night.



Skiing the Hurricane Ridge: Part III

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After spending a glorious morning surfing at Hobuck Beach I headed out to the Hurricane Ridge ski area. Though I visited Hurricane Ridge a couple years ago, I didn't have a chance to do anything other than just taking a few pictures. And that's what most people would do - drive for 17 miles from Port Angeles just to take a few pics, go for a short stroll in the snow, have lunch, and head back out.


If you're visiting the area, and all you have is just a few hours, I highly recommend to make a trip to the Hurricane Ridge ! It's so beautiful there !

Skiing at every ski area in Washington state has been on my Bucket List for the past couple years, and I really hoped to add Hurricane Ridge to my list this year. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions ( the road had been closed for a couple weeks ) and my schedule I was a week late.

Instead, I went "ski/alpine touring".


I haven't had a chance to write about my new "hobby" yet, but in short - for alpine touring you use your "regular" downhill skis with specially designed binding set-up ( AT/randonee bindings ) that allows the heel to free up for climbing and accessing backcountry. Then, the heel can "lock in", and the skis can be skied as normal alpine gear. To "walk uphill" on your skis, you use skins - removable pieces of nylon fabric whose nap runs at an oblique angle, allowing the ski to glide forward, but not back.

Avalanche danger was very high at the time of my visit, and I didn't want just "to wonder into backcountry".

As my trusted and favorite source I used " Snowshoe Routes Washington " , a great book for all skill levels, from beginner to experienced mountaineer.

I chose a relatively easy, yet very rewarding " Hurricane Hill " hike. It starts right behind the lodge, the trail is very used and thus easy to follow. I have to mention that for some ( inexperienced ) snowshoers the trail might get a bit tricky. Exposed ridgeline, two avalanche chutes, and knife-edged ridge crest might be more than you bargained for.

Even if the top isn't reached, the views are spectacular all along the trail. At the top you're rewarded with 360 degree spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Canada's Vancouver Island, upper Puget Sound, with Mount Baker rearing its icy head beyond, Olympus and Mt Angeles.

The way down was a breeze, and I was back to my car before closing time.

I wish I could just pass out in my car, but one thing that sucks about the Hurricane Ridge is that they close at dusk ( also, keep in mind that they open the gate at 8 am, and the lodge at 9 am, so it doesn't make sense to go there very early in the morning ).




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Skiing Mt St Helens !

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Last year I wrote about Matt Bedrin and his dream to ski all 40 of Cascadia’s tallest volcanoes in one year...Pretty ambitious...Just before writing this post I checked back on his progress...looks like after volcano #10 ( Mt Scott ) he gave up on his dream...

Well, I didn't !

My dream wasn't that big. Inspired by his video, all I wanted to do was to go back to Mt St Helens ( I hiked the volcano in the summer time two years ago ) to see the volcano under a blanket of snow, which, as we know, makes everything more beautiful ( honestly, summer hike didn't impress me at all ). Another reason was to test my "new backcountry ski gear".

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/089886884X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=211189&creative=373489&creativeASIN=089886884X&link_code=as3&tag=paulslinks-20Snowshoe Routes Washington ( my trusted snowshoe guide ) describes "Mt St Helens Summit" as:

Rating: Backcountry
Round trip: 8 miles
Hiking time : 9 hours
Best season: late December through early February

First of all, I wouldn't call it "Backcountry" , as it doesn't require any navigation/path finding skills, and avalanche danger ( comparing to Alpental or any other "true" backcoutry ) is minimum to non-existing. That's why, this trip is perfect for novice snowshoers who are looking for a challenge, minus all the danger associated with backcounty travel.

When it comes to "best season", immediately after watching the video ( beginning of February 2010 ) I made my first trip to Mt St Helens. The weather was horrible, and the road to Marble Mountain Sno-Park parking lot was closed. That's why this time, I had to to keep a close eye on the weather and snow conditions.

Thanks to La Nina, this year, we've had lots of snow in the mountains. Though it was in the middle of the spring, with more daylight, warm weather, lot's of sun and plenty of snow, the conditions were perfect for this epic trip !
On this climb up Mt St Helens, snowshoers can simply walk straight up the deep snow piled on the flanks of the big volcano, taking a direct approach to the rim of the massive crater.
That's pretty much the whole description of the route. Before you leave treeline, you follow xc ski trail # 244 which is perfectly marked. So, chances to get lot are slim to none.



Regardless of whether you want to snowshoe or ski Mt St Helens, this trip is VERY DOABLE FOR ANYBODY IN GOOD PHYSICAL SHAPE.
I got to share the mountain with a great group of people who call themselves " Wednesday Grandmas", whose oldest member was...58 !

So, if you proudly call yourself "outdoorsy", visiting Mt St Helens in winter is a must.





Next year goal : " Running to the top of Mt St Helens ...barefoot "


Skiing/snowshoeing Mount Margaret

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One of my Bucket List adventures for this year was to venture into backcountry, skiing or snowshoeing. AT/Telemark ski gear and backcountry essentials ( beacon/shovel/probe ) might be quite expensive, so I decided to use my cross country skis for some "ski touring".

Since there is no avalanche danger, snowshowing/skiing Mount Margaret is safe and is great for beginners, but at the same time it gives you that feeling of "exploring the backcountry".

That was my first time at Mt Margaret, and I absolutely loved it !

Though, in winter it's a very popular snowshoe route, I'd personally recommend to use skis. Believe me, you'll get a greater workout, and the way down will be a breeze. Classic/touring skis will work just fine, and you won't even need the skins. At Summit East ( formally known as Hayk ) you can rent a pair of skis for the day.

Even if you choose to stick to your snowshoes, make the trip down fun !

Use an airboard, snowbike, or a snowskate

I'm not giving the description of the trail, since you can easily find it either on WTA web site or in Snowshoe Routes Washington book.

Ski to Sea : Why Do I Keep Doing This To Myself ?

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They call it the Bellingham Olympics here. There is no drug testing, no prize money, no sponsor endorsement, and no fame and glory. Then, why hundreds of people, from elite athletes and weekend warrior to outdoor enthusiasts, torture themselves every year to compete in this crazy, seven-sport adventure relay race ?

To me the Ski to Sea race is not just an endurance event and definitely not a competition. It's about challenging and pushing myself not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. It's about gaining knowledge of sportsmanship and teamwork, it's the place where limits are tested, friendships are made and confidence is found.

The Ski to Sea race is one of the country's most creative, unusual sports events. Though, the event brings in some of the best amateur athletes and some pros, for most people it's all about having a good time !

From my first time participating in the event, I got hooked. Apart from the competition, it's the area that brought me back for the second year.

Named as one of the best adventure towns by National Geographic Adventure magazine, this area offers numerous outdoor opportunities : hiking, mountain and road biking, skiing and kayaking, sailing and diving.

The Ski to Sea race is a team event : families, co-workers, friends, competitive athletes - representing all levels of ability.

I want to thank all members of team EPIC for their participation and support. You all gelled and pushed hard the entire time, crossing the finish line with smiles on your faces. I look forward to next year’s challenge with all the returning racers and hope to encourage more people to take part in next year 100th anniversary of the first Mount Baker Marathon !

Visiting Winthrop

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Winthrop has been on my "to-do/to-visit " list for the past two years. Known for the American Old West design of all the buildings in town, the theme idea was inspired by the example of Leavenworth, which in turn was heavily based on Solvang, California. The charming atmosphere of cute western town, board sidewalks, beautiful vistas, high, ragged peaks, cowboys and the old west everywhere - that are the pictures portrayed in every local guide book, trip planner or a brochure.

But when you get here...

It's a "two-line, half -mile, over-priced everything, tourist infested " town with more hotels than "places to see/ things to do " ( though some of the hotels are an attraction of their own, and some people consider drinking - " a thing to do"). Three Fingered Jack's Saloon is the area's main attraction. So, other than drinking , you don't really have too many options. After all, wondering around Shafer Museum, learning local history is always more fun when you are buzzed.




But for outdoor enthusiasts, Winthrop is an major cross-country skiing location, with over 120 miles of groomed trails ( second longest trail system in U.S).

Though, I didn't have a chance to ski on the famous Rendezvous Ski Trails ( 44 km that provide a semi backcountry experience and offer a comfortable overnight stay at one of their 5 huts), I had a great experience skiing on the beautiful Sun Mountain ski trails.

Sun Mountain Lodge features access to a trail system of over 200 kilometers, with ski tracks right outside your door.






Even if you are "not so much into cross country skiing" , sometimes the location dictates you what to do ( you don't go to Whistler and not ski, right ? Or do you ?). Just grab a pair of xc skis and go for a quick run to the View Ridge point . The trailhead is right in front of the lodge, 1.5 mile long, relatively easy (a couple little hills won't kill you), and you'll be rewarded with spectacular scenery of the North Cascades and the Methow Valley from trailside overlooks.

For more information on cross country skiing in the The Methow Valley, visit their web site - The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association.

Winter activities in Chelan.

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The Lake Chelan Valley ( that encompasses the resort towns of Chelan, Manson and Stehekin ) in central Washington State, is famous for its summer water recreation - fishing, boating, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, and ( surprisingly to me) even snorkling and scuba diving !

The whole North Central Washington ( which includes The Lake Chelan Valley ) has a very intriguing and appealing claim of " 300 days of sunshine " , which for outdoor enthusiasts means more time to do their favorite seasonal activities in more pleasant ( comparing to Seattle ) weather.

Though, the “Lake County ” is mainly associated with summer water recreation and resort activities, hoping to catch one of those " 300 days of sunshine", this February , I set out on my ( only !) second trip to Lake Chelan.

According to numerous " travel resources" :
...the area is becoming well known for a variety of winter sports , like downhill and cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing...
Just seven miles from downtown Chelan, they have a great, little known snow playground - Echo Valley Ski area ( for skiing, boarding and tubing). This year, the winter has been horrible for every ski area, and during my visit, the Echo Valley Ski ski area was closed due to lack of snow.

But 2 miles past downhill ski area, and high in the hills above Lake Chelan, ( I discovered for myself ) Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area, the scenic ridge-top location that provides breath taking views of Lake Chelan's fjord like valley and the Stewart Range. Echo Ridge has 40 kilometers of trails that follow the contours of the terrain creating interesting and exciting skiing for all ability levels. The Echo Ridge Nordic Trail system also includes trails designated just for snowshoers, but I've never been a fan of snowshoeing in an area mainly designed for xc skiing ( just not that fun for me ! ).


Pressed on time I took a quick trip to the Ridge View point. The weather that day just didn't want to cooperate , and after taking a ( very disappointing ) picture ( been there, done that ), I went back to downtown.



Whenever I travel, my first stop is always at a local visitor center. Often, here you can find information that you can't find even on the Internet.

Unfortunately, this time , even here I couldn't find any info on snowmobile guided tours, so if you know about a local outfitter, please share with us.

At the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Center, I picked up several brochures to plan my summer retreat here. Among activities that I am super stoked to do are : a trip to Stehekin ( backpacking, horseback riding), wakeboarding/windserfing/jet skiing on the lake, paragliding/hand gliding off Chelan Butte, taking a trike flight over the lake, diving ( ?), and though I am not a big fan of fishing, I am willing to give it a try.

Here are a few images from Google, to consider Chelan ( and Echo Ridge in particular ) to be your next winter destination: