The unmistakable scent of fall is in the air. Wet, dead leaves have a certain woody smell that means one thing: it's cold, wet and somewhere up in the mountains, the snow is already falling. It has now been a couple of weeks since the first real dump of snow has blanketed the Cascades and the telemarkers have been out breaking trail and carving their first turns.
Shakedown tours are always a good idea and we did one at the Cutthroat Lake Trail just off Highway 20. It was a cold, cloudy morning and we arrived at the trailhead with great anticipation of a day of touring up a valley floor then up to some slopes with just enough coverage to make some turns. Part of the process of the first ski of the season is making sure you have all of your gear that you need, followed by putting it to use for the first time since summer (the non-ski season is blessedly short around here). Here is where the first revelation occurred - my skins had died over the summer. My trusted Ascension skins that were 4 years old and always bonded well to the bottoms of my skis were suddenly hanging from the cold surface of my skis like a sail hanging from a mast. I attached the the skins under some tension but after a 1/2 mile on the train, it became apparent that I was going no where fast and Peg's patience wouldn't last for ever as a slipped along behind her. The rest of the tour was on foot, fortunately on a well packed trail that kept one from post-holing, most of the time, through the 3 feet of snow that had accumulated.
Now with skins, reglued and cleaned, we face the rest of the season. It's time to track down some fresh, cold, light, early winter snow and float down some mountainsides. Winter has come.