|How I got started skiing year-round: I'm from the Niagara Falls Canada area, which is pretty flat (apart from the falls) so it just never occured to me to go skiing. Although my high school had a ski club, I was never quite sure where they went. The first time I ever skied was in 1989. I had just moved to the Seattle area, and somebody from my school who had come out with me who was a ski instructor back in Ontario, was very excited to be here, and dragged me to go skiing one day... "We're on the west coast! The skiing is awesome! Come on, let's go!" Well, I liked it OK. I skied 4-6 times that year, but then probably not at all for the next 2 years (I was back in Ontario during the winters). Then in 1991 I moved here for good, and skied up to a dozen times in the 92 and 93 seasons.|
Then something snapped in my brain, and I decided I really loved skiing, so I skied 72 days spread out all year round in 1994, and haven't looked back. Since Thanksgiving 1993, I've skied╩644 days (as of Mar. 7, 2004) over the past 125 months, without missing a month, and almost exclusively in the Pacific Northwest (no cheating by flying to South America or Australia). (Flexible hours at my job helps alot - I ski many weekday mornings). I'm very excited now to have reached the 10 year╩mark!
For the first day in my streak (although I didn't know it was at the time) I drove by myself for 13 hours to Banff, Alberta to ski Sunshine Village for the American Thanksgiving holiday with some friends. At the time I was just learning to ski black slopes. I've never learned as fast as some of my friends, so I decided to go for the sheer repetition method of learning to ski better.
Criteria for what counts as a ski trip: My own personal self-imposed arbitrary definition of skiing is 1000 feet of vertical all in a single day. I figure that's as much skiing as you get over a few runs back on the east coast, so that should be enough. A few hundred feet vertical here and there until it adds up to 1000 doesn't count for anything unless its done in the same day.
Biggest threat to my streak: See "Worst backcountry ski trip",╩except for a friend who's threatened to tie me to a chair for a whole month to see what happens.
Type of equipment I use: I always carry alpine skis strapped to my back. I've never used telemark gear or Randonee or skinned up the mountain. It's more work (I was lapped once by a skinner who did 2 climbs in the time it took me to do 1) but it's good exercise. One thing I often do is paint my skis with a custom paint job (usually a piano keyboard to reflect my other passion).
Strategy for skiing through the low season: The hardest months are September and October, because the old snow is gone, the new snew hasn't fallen yet, and the weather is unpredictable, so all you have are some glaciers on the local volcanoes to choose from. In order for that to work, you have to be flexible and choose your days carefully for good weather to maximize your chances of a successful day, or you'll use up all your spare time on unsuccessful climbing attempts. It's also good to find some friends who are into this kind of thing too, to feed off of each other's energy and enthusiasm. I spend a lot of time pouring over maps to plan new exciting routes so that I don't have to fall back on the default "I guess I'll just go to Muir again" which gets boring after a while. Mt. Hood and Whistler are open 9 months of the year up here, but I hardly ever ski there; I usually climb a local mountain or volcano instead when most of the lifts are closed.
Worst and best backcountry ski trips: I never had a worst trip until October 2003, ironically my big 10 year anniversary ski. I didn't follow my own rule, and I left it so there was only 1 day I was available to ski, Oct 28, when good weather was predicted. Of course, the prediction was wrong, and I got to Paradise and the parking lot was flooded with white caps in it, 60mph winds were blowing, and it was a whiteout. I was literally knocked over several times and had to hug the ground until the winds slowed. There was very little snow left on the snowfield (much less than the map shows) and it was proving frustrating to get 1000' of vertical. After I couldn't stand it anymore, I headed back, and got lost on the way down (absolutely no visibility). I know the area pretty well, so I started on the Paradise Glacier side, and traversed all the way across to the Nisqually Glacier side, and then heading back again, started down each fall line looking for the flat-top ridge that is the way back, but with no visibility I couldn't spot it from a distance and had to wander down every lead one after another to find the right way back, in the most miserable weather imaginable. Ironically enough, the extra wandering I did made me get about 1000 vertical feet of skiing in, which I otherwise wouldn't have! (I was foolishly ready to decide that staying alive was more important than skiing a whole 1000' - it must have been the heat of the moment). But it was all worthwhile. When I finally recognized which Nisqually Glacier drainage I was in and how to get out of it, and got back onto the trail, a woman stepped out of the fog behind me and said "You just saved my life.╩ I was lost and I've been following you all the way down". The weather was so bad we were shouting into each other's ears from a few inches away, yet still really couldn't hear each other. Next time, I try to ski Oct 1, so if this happens again I'll still have 30 more chances.
Best trips? Obviously getting a few feet of fresh powder snow on a sunny day makes for a pretty good day, but I tend to mostly enjoy the day for the good weather and views, and some of my best memories were on trips where the snow was so bad my friends with me had a miserable time. I enjoy going off the beaten path, and sometimes the place you find is so beautiful it almost doesn't matter what the snow conditions are.
Skiing activities in the past year: web site