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2010 Backcountry Trip Reports => January 2010 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: ADappen on 01/04/10, 01:15 PM



Title: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: ADappen on 01/04/10, 01:15 PM
Three strides above the Mission Ridge parking lot Tom Janisch is surprised by what he’s finding, “The snow has gone from Eastside powder to Westside glop overnight.” The atmosphere has taken a Westside turn for the worse as well. Drizzle spits on our parkas.

For those of us accustomed to skiing the colder East slopes of the Cascades, this is an inauspicious first day of a new decade. Were the snow soft and skies beautiful, I would place deep meaning on what that might portend for the year and the decade ahead. Instead, I try to block out what this wet, sloppy weather symbolizes (prepare to get pissed upon, or welcome to 10 years of foggy wanderings) and lean on pragmatism for an explanation (if you ski a lot, some days will deliver pissy conditions).

Tom is smiling. As usual, he’s game for whatever. I, on the other hand, am hoping this will be one of those bad-day-turns-good or persistence-pays-off experiences where we reap better conditions by day’s end than we expected at day’s beginning.

We climb into the fog, obeying Mission Ridge’s uphill policy and staying well left of the ski area’s groomed runs. Mission Ridge apparently forgot about the changing of the decade eight hours ago and is making up for that now—every five minutes they detonate a bomb in the bowls to our right whose shock waves are felt underfoot. In near whiteout conditions and in what could be a Pakistani war zone, we shuffle upward.

Gradually we move out of tropical air sandwiched between layers of colder air and the water pelting us becomes a confetti of ice pellets. Nearly two thousand feet above the parking lot, we wander through forests with nicely spaced trees and a carpet of heavy powder. With what may be the Year of Rain ahead of us, we opt to grab gifts when they are offered. We strip the skins and take a short detour downward. Over the course of ten minutes my mood about the New Year takes an optimistic bend.

We re-skin, pass our previous high point, and soon we have a decision to make. Should we ski west to the ski area and spend the afternoon on groomers where we know we won’t stone grind our bases in the shallow snowpack, or should we ski east to the Stemilt Basin whose snowpack could be thin and slabby? I ask Tom what he’s game for and, as expected, we’re soon striding toward the Stemilt. Never give Tom a choice if you actually want the short option.

Twenty minutes later we’re peering through chowder weather at the open slopes where the Mission Ridge Ski Area was almost built over 40 years ago. Those slopes disappear into the soup below us. These days the basin is visited by more snowmobilers looking for places to highmark than skiers looking for downhill turns, but on this low-snow winter the lower access roads are apparently in poor shape -- not a single machine has molested the  bowl before us.

We cut and assess the upper slopes and like what we find. Over the next few hours we take two laps down our own private ski area. Five inches of new snow can’t be called ‘deep’ and the snow’s consistency is Cascadian flour rather than Utah fluff, but the stuff carves easily and smoothly. It’s the best snow Tom and I have enjoyed in a month.

In early afternoon we quit this New Year’s game that Tom is calling the Stemilt Bowl (a reference to the Rose Bowl, you know). We ski out of the basin and tour west back to Mission Ridge where Tom will rendezvous with his family for some downhill turns.

On the ridge capping some of the resort’s hike-to terrain, we strip the skins again. “We just a need a sun break now,” I tell Tom, “to make this day the poster-child of the rewards of perseverance.” Tom doesn’t really relate–other than death or paralysis, everything is 'funola' to the mutant.

The skins are in the pack and we’re buckling boots when the sky brightens. A white ball burns through the shrouds above us while, down below, the Red Sea of clouds splits wide open. Suddenly the symbolism I was afraid to evoke earlier runs amuck. We stand like Moses looking down a ribbon of untouched snow that leads us away from the windy ridge of the pharaohs to the Promised Land. Obviously it’s a ridiculous analogy … the ribbon doesn’t lead to Israel, it is itself the Promised Land.

We drop in and taste the best run of the year…make that the best run of the decade.

+++++


Click here for a post (http://justgetout.net/Wenatchee/18059) with more pictures, more details, and a topo map of the route.



Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: Scotsman on 01/04/10, 02:48 PM
Lovely report. Really like your writing.
I was wondering how the locals in your area feel about you posting a detailed map and mini- tour guide to a sidecountry bowl??
( It's on your link)
I know that if somebody posted such a detailed report to some of the Crystal sidecountry stashes , you would not be a popular man with some of the local worthies.( you know who you are)
I'm agnostic about posting maps and tour guides to stashes but I know when the high school kid posted the mini guide to the Southback  at Crystal last season, he got some  major grief!


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: Joedabaker on 01/04/10, 06:47 PM
Great report Andy, fun read.
In response to Scotsman's comments...nobody skis the 'Ridge anyway  ;)
Quote from: Scotsman on 01/04/10, 02:48 PM
I know that if somebody posted such a detailed report to some of the Crystal sidecountry stashes , you would not be a popular man with some of the local worthies.( you know who you are)


The internet does have it's disadvantages. Although I love the track followers who think there's an easy way out. Only to see them later boiled in a cauldron of baggy snowboard gear.
The only thing that almost boils my blood more are snowboarders who post hole a sweet skin track! (You know who you are)
Yesterday they wallowed so much it looked like they dug a couple pits on our track!  >:(
Sorry for the drift...


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: Scotsman on 01/04/10, 08:35 PM
Well I'm still intersted in how the Mission Ridge locals feel about it.
Wenatchee Outdoors although a non-profit has the stated aim of encouraging access and promoting the area and received a grant to start-up the website from a group whose existence ( I think) is to promote tourism. Although a non-profit, presumably wages are being paid to those that run the site, maybe only costs covered.
Andy's beautiful report is basically the same as posted on their website but with detailed maps and basically an on-line guidebook with ratings etc.

Andy is a skiing journalist so he must be aware of the issue of guarded locals resistant to having sidecountry stashes revealed to the masses with step by step directions on how to get there and I'm interested to hear his take on it.
I'm not criticizing,( I've already stated I'm an agnostic) just interested as I know that some people may feel that on-line guidebooks to their local stashes is " not right" especially if there's a perception that the person writing it is gaining economic advantage from it.

It's a free country and anybody has the right to author a guidebook or a website but its certainly an issue in the ski world as  more and more people take up this sport of ours


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: Joedabaker on 01/04/10, 10:51 PM
Quote from: Scotsman on 01/04/10, 08:35 PM
It's a free country and anybody has the right to author a guidebook or a website but its certainly an issue in the ski world as  more and more people take up this sport of ours

Come on finish the sentence...
It's a free country and anybody has the right to author a guidebook or a website but its certainly an issue in the ski world as more and more people take up this sport of ours and as I get older and my heavy smoking keeps me from being able to stumble to far from my car.



Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: ADappen on 01/05/10, 01:36 AM
Stemilt Basin wouldn't be considered a sidecountry stash for Mission Ridge skiers. From the top of Mission it's a flat 40-minute shuffle over to the Stemilt Basin, you log 1000 to 1500 vertical then, in most years, you're likely to climb back out of the basin and shuffle 25 minutes back to terrain that really is considered to be the resort's sidecountry. The return routes shown on the map connected to the post have climbing, route finding, and timber to contend with. And often the lower portions of those routes don't have enough snow for decent skiing. Not only does nobody ski Mission (Joedabaker), but it doesn't have any snow either.

Stemilt Basin is obscure enough for the Mission Ridge skier (and we've already established there aren't any of us) that very few season pass holders have ever skied it. Those who have skied it more than once are about as numerous as the cyclists out there wearing my favorite jersey stating, "Truckers are fags."

There is something of a nefarious agenda in trying to get more skiers and snowshoers using the area, however. Some of the more accessible backcountry destinations for Wenatchee skiers are also areas that are open to snowmobiling and there is some effort afoot to try to define a few winter zones close to Wenatchcee that might be pockets of non-motorized winter recreation. The Stemilt Basin would be one logical choice but that's not going to happen if under 10 skiers visit it every winter.

It's probably not going to happen anyway, but if 20 non-motorized winter users ski it in a year, we might have the critical mass for a revolution.


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: jwplotz on 01/05/10, 06:24 AM
Great report Andy! Is it a 'secret stash' when it's immediately visible from most any vantage point in Wenatchee? In fact, Stemilt Basin's open slopes are even more obvious to the casual viewer than the Ridge itself.


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tou
Post by: aaron_wright on 01/05/10, 07:21 AM
Andy, I think more people use it than you might realize. There is a marked(surveyors tape) and thinned "trail" in the vicinity of "Outback" that leads to the open slopes below "Sharkfin". Many people use this as a return route to the ski area. It's a little obscure, but I found it. There is also an avid contingent of skiers who access the area by sled through Forest Ridge/Squilchuck and Upper Wheeler. I would like to see this area above Upper Wheeler or the area between Squilchucker trail and the county line/9712 considered for a non motorized area in winter. The latter choice is already closed to motorized use in the summer(I think) and might be the best option. I think sleds accessing the slopes above Upper Wheeler are there illegally, they have to cross private land that is permanently closed to all public access to get there. It's clearly marked when approaching from the north on Green Dot roads.


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: Scotsman on 01/05/10, 10:00 AM
Quote from: ADappen on 01/05/10, 01:36 AM
Those who have skied it more than once are about as numerous as the cyclists out there wearing my favorite jersey stating, "Truckers are fags."


Thats very funny. I want a jersey with that on it.
Thanks for the reply and explanation. Always interested in the politics of skiing.
Maybe I'll use your map and go there if my heavy smoking (Joedabaker) will allow me to get that far from the car.
Mind you getting Joedabaker away from Crystal is very difficult as well.


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: davidG on 01/05/10, 10:29 AM
A delightfull TR.  Thanks for the vicarious outing..


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tou
Post by: aaron_wright on 01/05/10, 11:05 AM
Quote from: Scotsman on 01/05/10, 10:00 AM
Thats very funny. I want a jersey with that on it.
Thanks for the reply and explanation. Always interested in the politics of skiing.
Maybe I'll use your map and go there if my heavy smoking (Joedabaker) will allow me to get that far from the car.
Mind you getting Joedabaker away from Crystal is very difficult as well.
I wouldn't bother coming this far, the snow here is really bad, especially yesterday.


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: ADappen on 01/05/10, 12:23 PM
Aaron, thanks for the input in the first comment. I was being tongue-in-cheek in understating the use of the area. That being said I've been surprised that many people I would have expected to have skied the area haven't.  I've also been surprised by the few (or the complete absence of) ski tracks on the few occassions when I've slipped in a run. Still, I think you're on the money in stating that more people use the area than I suspect.

Thanks for the bit about sleds. Interesting and useful info.


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tou
Post by: Scotsman on 01/05/10, 12:29 PM
Quote from: aaron_wright on 01/05/10, 11:05 AM
I wouldn't bother coming this far, the snow here is really bad, especially yesterday.


Ahh there' the rub. Thanks to Mr Dappen's excellent map, we now know the way and what you  " East Side Boys " have been hiding. ;) ;) ;)


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: trees4me on 01/05/10, 12:36 PM
You think we can get a deal on a group order on those jerseys...?


Crested Butte locals all willingly discouraged anyone from posting or describing the backcountry routes in detail or publishing guidebooks.  It was quite secretive.  They all said:  "you'll have to get a local to show you around".  But of course, none of the locals wanted to show any old noob to the area around.  I would look at the map, go explore then submit pit reports to the avy center, and every time they'd come back with the name of the obscure run I'd stumbled on. 

Now whenever I go somewhere that I can't find a previous trip report on I think twice about posting it...


Title: Re: January 1, 2010, Stemilt Basin, New Year's Tour
Post by: Scotsman on 01/05/10, 01:02 PM
Quote from: trees4me on 01/05/10, 12:36 PM
You think we can get a deal on a group order on those jerseys...?
Crested Butte locals all willingly discouraged anyone from posting or describing the backcountry routes in detail or publishing guidebooks.  It was quite secretive.  They all said:  "you'll have to get a local to show you around".  But of course, none of the locals wanted to show any old noob to the area around.  I would look at the map, go explore then submit pit reports to the avy center, and every time they'd come back with the name of the obscure run I'd stumbled on. 

Now whenever I go somewhere that I can't find a previous trip report on I think twice about posting it...


Thats definitely the Crystal BC/Sidecountry policy as I understand it. In fact know it ,as a person recently wanted to make a guide to some of Crystals back bowls and was strongly discouraged. " you can show but you can't tell".


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