Posts Tagged ‘2012’

White Grass received a couple inches of snow last night. Of course it wasn’t like one year ago when Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and dumped a record snowfall in West Virginia.

The proof that you don’t necessarily need to go skiing on Baffin Island to make it a memorable adventure.

Here is video made by my traveling partner MattChuck2. The action sequences were shot at White Grass on November 1, 2012.

Matt Chuck2’s blog :
Skiing Sandy – Timberline & Whitegrass, West Virginia

Ski Mad World:
Frankenstorm Trick and Treat, West Virginia style – Part 1: Timberline, Oct 31, 2012
Frankenstorm Trick and Treat, West Virginia style – Part 2 : White Grass, Nov 1, 2012

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White Grass isn’t an alpine ski area with lifts; it’s a cross-country and backcountry ski area. The place was highly recommended when we were heading down to Canaan Valley, West Virginia, last October for the Frankenstorm 3 feet dump.

One small building and inside was a trip back in time. Rental equipment, lunch room, kitchen: it reminder me of a rustic sugar shack setting with ski gear. The rural setting and scenery of the place reminded me parts of Vermont or rural Quebec.

Anyhow, here is the description found on the ski map picked up during last year’s epic trip:

White Grass is situated on over 2,500 acres of private, state, and federal lands within the Cabin Mtn. range of West Virginia’s high Alleghenies. We pick up much of our snow off the Great Lakes whenever strong north-westerly winds drop out of Canada. Originally built as the Weiss Knob Ski Area in 1959, Bob and Anita Barton operated 4 rope tows and had snow making here. The Randall Reed family owns much of the property we ski upon and we thank for allowing us to do so.

– Groomed Trails (25km)
– Snowfarming (“5 km of snowfence and driftlines are maintained adjacent to the lodge”)
– Telemark Glades (“the largest and steepest system around. Fly down the Yitzhak Ravine, Boutros-Boutros Gully or jump the Yessir-Yessir – Air is Fat!”)
– Snowshoes

Our Mountain & the Canaan Valley
– 40 trails totalling 50 km
– 1196′ vertical: 3240′ – 4434′
– Average Snowfall 150″
– Average Skiable days at 4000′: 95
– Best skiing mid January – early March

Here is the 2011-12 Trail Map for White Grass:

Click to access larger image

White Grass’s website
Ski Mad World TR :Frankenstorm Trick and Treat, West Virginia style – Part 2 : White Grass, Nov 1, 2012

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As a geographer, I’d always been fascinated about skiing locations. People generally don’t realize that you can ski at many places in the World which aren’t associated with snow. Although Baffin Island is cold and white, the last thing they think about is skiing steeps couloirs.

For summer reading I picked up at the library Mark Synnott’s Climbing, Trekking & Skiing Baffin Island Guide book. I had seen beautiful pictures of the Baffin Island’s Auyuittuq National Park and know friends that have been, it just shows what is possible. There is also incredible skiing on the north part of the island near Clyde River.

Part of the ski descents sections are written by ski mountaineer Andrew McLean. McLean and his partner Brad Barlage did the many first descents and named them including Polar Star Couloir in April 2002. He defines the couloir off the Beluga Spin as

possibly the best skiing couloir on earth (…) long narrow, turnable, steep, sheltered, straight and stunning 1100 m (3,640′) of 45-50 degrees.

Since then McLean has returned to Baffin Island. This month I featured an episode from “A Skier’s Journey”. Getting there is part of the adventure. Jamie Bond, Chad Sayers, Tobin Seagel, Marcus Waring and Chad & Jordan Manley collaborate to ski, film, narrate and edited in this excellent episode on Baffin Island. You get a glimpse of the PSC neat the 2 minute mark and see the descent at 8:15.

High in the Canadian Arctic, five friends venture to the frozen fjords of Northwest Baffin Island during spring time. Ancient and colossal, these branching hallways of rock are the domain of seals and polar bears, and relied upon by local Inuit hunters. For visiting skiers, the fjords are nothing short of a dream. In every direction, giant couloirs ascend thousands of feet above the sea ice, weaving in between some of the tallest and cliffs on the planet.

Skin Track : Interview with Andrew McLean – Icon of North American ski mountaineering

The following posts are written by Andrew McLean and taken from his sites.

Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Primer

Going Down Big – Baffin Island
Love At First Flight

Expeditions & Adventures :
Baffin Island 2002
Baffin Island 2004

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Middle of June and thinking about possible turns for the month and July. I had skipped a few occasions on heading to the Presidential due to certain obligations.

Being an abnormal snow year in the East, skiing was getting from pathetic to impossible real fast. From the reports I’ve seen from Tuckerman, mid-June turns looked more like July.

I wasn’t sure that Tuckerman July turns would be possible. I had a few ideas in mind for July snow, but they were more pathetic than the next. Would it really be skiing? As I started thinking outside the box I received an email from Mr. Bestsnow.net mentioning that PNW had another incredible year and looked like Mt. Bachelor might reopen for the June/July 1 weekend. He informed that it was good enough for him to consider flying there. I knew the season had been good and was aware that Crystal was still spinning on weekends as long as it was possible. Then there was Timberline on Mt. Hood and the mountains in the Cascade that would still have snow.

I had mentioned before that a trip only to freeski on timberline wasn’t necessarily worth the expenses, especially that I have skied there a couple of days once back in August / September 2006 as part of our excellent two weeks family vacation exploring the PNW. As I started thinking of the possibility and the fact that my season really sucked, I thought to myself, if I can get an airline ticket, I would go.


June 27:

Getting out of the heat and riding the train to the Ottawa airport with skis; sense of déjà vu from last summer in Europe. Standing next to me at the Air Canada counter is an ex-CEO from a place I worked, he seemed to look at me as if he recognized me, wondering WTF was I going with my skis in June and why I’m not at work? I’m leaving on a trip away from work, what he is going here? As I’m charged 56$ for my regular bag plus my ski bag. I remember not long ago when you would even have to pay and they gave you more than pretzels to eat on the plane. Not on this 5-hour flight to Vancouver.

Another familiar face with ski boots is a local ski coach from another hill which my daughter trained with them one day in 2011. Ryan was now coach with the regional ski team and was heading on an earlier flight than the rest of the team to Mt. Hood. The team, amongst the best local racers, which Morgane competes against, were heading to Mt. Hood for 2 weeks of training. In September the team is going to train in Chile. Pretty much year-round training on and off snow. We had time to chat between flight to Vancouver and Portland, Oregon.

As in 2006, a spectacular view on the Dash 8 flight from Vancouver to Portland which included Seattle, Mts Rainier and St. Helens. As headed down to Portland, we could see Mt. Hood in the distance in the clear blue sky.

Back when I was with the family in 2006, I didn’t get to spend much time in Portland. Once I checked at the downtown Motel 6, which happens to be across the street from the hotel we stayed in 2006, I hope on the light rail system at around 9pm, which is free in the downtown core. Walked around for a few hours, went to biggest new and used Powell Book store I’ve never been to. Back to my room at past midnight which happens to be 3am in the East. It’s going to be a short night, especially that the lifts at Timberline open at 7am. Lift closed at 2pm, but I needed to be back in town at 3pm, so I would have to stop skiing before that.

Flying into Vancouver BC

Mount Rainier

Mounts St. Helens and Adams

Mount Hood

Portland at night

Record store


June 28:

I think the wake-up call was at 5:45am. It took me a while to get out of bed, of the room and on-the-road. No time for breakfast on the road as I’m racing towards the mountain. In the parking lot, I saw some people when skinning and hiking. I was debating what I was going to wear for way too long. It doesn’t matter, the scenery is beautiful. A quick special breakfast bagel at the Wy’ay Lodge cafeteria. Got my $58 liftticket as it was they were making my breakfast. Eat it as I was hiking through the lot in front of the Timberline Lodge and slowly sliding towards to massive line for the Magic Mile chair.

The morning commute

Morning Liftline chaos 1 : Magic Mile

View from Magic Mile

View from Magic Mile with Palmer in-sight. Courses below Palmer instead of snow tongues surrounded by moraines

As I was walking in the lot, buses of kids were still arriving. However these kids were jibbers, not racers. Snow coverage was wall to wall at the bottom slopes above the hotel. As I got on the lift at 9:30 am, I was somewhat surprised as the lower mountain below the Palmer midstation was a series of moraine walled snow tongues the last time I skied here in late Summer 2006. The sun was hot and snow was soft. The lineup at Palmer was slightly better.

Morning Liftline chaos 2 : Palmer. With Mt. Jefferson in the background

Liftline chaos 3 : Palmer Mid-Station

Mt. Hood is definitely summer skiing central. There was a queue also at the midstation, full of race kids and a few bigger racers like Ted Ligety. Each team was assigned a line on the hill, similar as the busy summer ski camp I saw in the Alps last summer. Some teams trained on upper Palmer, left or right of the lift. Some were also on the lower half of Palmer or along the Magic Mile.

Lane distribution – NCO team has lane 17

Courses on Upper Palmer

Ted Ligety is a popular guy

I mixed it up, either by making full runs of Palmer or riding the upper part of the snow field. There were a few lines I could ski, but it was limited within the boundaries. There were 40 lanes reserved on the hill. The snow below Palmer towards was the Magic soft mile, in term of snow and slope. As noon approached, lineups to the lifts disappeared as coaches were unsetting the courses and racers made their last free runs before non-skiing afternoon activities.

Funky clouds on Mt. Hood as seen from Lower Palmer

Notice the dots as across the snowfield

Snowpark served by rope-tows below the midstation on Palmer was still pretty busy. Chatted again with the local coaches as they were packing up for their first day. I was also needed to get ready to leave, I was picking up Tony at the Portland Airport at 3pm. In 3 hours of skiing, I managed 7 runs. The morning started off bluebird with a hanging cloud on the summit of Mt. Hood, however it started to get overcast on my last runs. Weather was moving in for the weekend, forecast called for rain.

Clouds moving in

Timberline Lodge

So to Portland and back pass Mt. Hood on our 3-hour drive to Central Oregon and the town of Bend. Tomorrow is Friday June 29 and Mt. Bachelor is reopening one last weekend. The plan is to come back to Mt. Hood and Timberland Lodge on our last evening in the PNW on the following Monday.

Driving to Bend

MadPat’s Galleries
YOW to PDX / Portland : June 27
Portland, Timberline / Mt. Hood, Bend : June 28

Log: Notice the wait time at the lifts

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