Sunday, July 8, 2007

Summer Runs

The days are long, and the sun beats down on the melting snow from winter over 16 hours a day now. Yet, the snow lingers in the high meadows and steep slopes that face away from the snow's powerful foe. It is on these slopes, where suncups are measured in centimeters instead of inches, where we find the great runs of summer.

One of the great advantages of summer skiing is the incredible stability of the snow. The wind, weight and waning snow depth make for a solid base here in the Cascades that will only rarely slide off its underlying rock. As a result, you can ski steep runs that in the winter would make you think more than twice whether or not your life insurance policy is paid up.

Newcomers to the Northwest are often stunned when they drive up to Mt. Baker Ski Area in July to go for a hike, only to find that the 6 feet of snow still remaining just south of the main parking lot is only the beginning. At Artist Point, a mile south and about 1000 ft. up, the snow is over 12-15 feet deep still.

So with tank tops, shorts, crampons, skins and skis, several people every day seek out the north facing slopes of Table Mountain and the Blueberry Chutes and take their shot at their sublimely steep faces. We don't care to fall, as the summer corn on bare legs and arms can give you a road rash you won't forget. We do love the adrenaline rush of looking down a slope where the first turn becomes a leap of faith. You must trust your skis to stay on edge, lest you'll slide forever down the firmly packed face of these northerly slopes.

It's a shame it melts.

1 comment:

chimayo bound said...

What do you mean, in the winter?? I'm still convinced you took out a new life insurance policy on me--just last week!

The turns do look nice, though!