Washington state is blessed in countless ways; rain, planes and coffee all have their place. Yet its most spectacular trait may well be its mountains, which offer skiable snow every single month of the year.
I’ve just had the pleasure of completing my mission to ski 12 consecutive months in Washington. Each month presented a different set of joys, sensations and challenges. Through these experiences, and with an eye to the many more months to come, I present:
SCOTT'S 5 ESSENTIALS FOR SKIING EVERY MONTH
1. Snow - It doesn’t have to be plentiful and it doesn’t have to be good, but if you’re going to ski the entire year, you’ve gotta find snow.
2. Partners - Between the safety benefits and the richness that comes with shared human experiences, I’d highly recommend shopping around for some people who share an unquenchable hunger for sliding downhill on wooden sticks.
3. Imagination - There really is a part of the year that nature designed specifically for skiing; and as much as I would like it to be otherwise, it’s not the entire year-round. For those months that fall ‘out of season’, if you will, you’ll need imagination to find places to ski and a liberal definition of what the word ‘skiing’ actually means.
4. Backcountry training - Once the chairlifts shut down, you’re on your own. Get familiar with avalanche safety, maps and navigation, wilderness first aid and survival. If you spend enough time in the backcountry, it’s not if you’ll be involved in an accident, it’s when. Be prepared.
5. Fitness - As summer weather moves the snow higher and higher into the mountains, you’ve got to follow it. That means long walks in the hills. The more fitness you have, the more you’ll be able to focus on the beauty that surrounds you.
5 THINGS THAT'LL MAKE IT EASIER
1. AT/Telemark/Splitboard equipment - When I started skiing in the summertime, I carried my skis and boots on my back as I slogged my way to the top of this or that volcano. Advances in alpine touring gear have made my life infinitely easier and more comfortable, and similar advances have been made in telemarking and splitboarding. If you’re serious about the sport, it’s worth the investment.
2. Glacier gear and training - If you want to be able to explore the snowiest places in the world, you’ll need to be comfortable on glaciated terrain. This means learning the tools, tricks and techniques of glacier travel. Do it, it’s a lot of fun.
3. Tolerant friends and family - When you load your car with skis, poles, jackets and goggles in August, people may start to question your sanity and begin asking hard questions about your priorities in life. It’s highly preferable if these people are not your spouse, parents, kids or best friends.
4. Volcanos, big ones - Not everybody’s got them handy, but those who do are very lucky. I haven’t had to use it, but the Muir snowfield on Mount Rainier is the ultimate backup plan for those trying to log turns all year.
5. Plane tickets to the Southern Hemisphere - If all else fails, head south. Las Lenas, Argentina, and Queenstown, New Zealand, are 2 of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet, and when things are at their worst in the northern latitudes it’s snowing down south. Go ahead, book a flight. You won’t regret it.
If this all sounds like a lot of work, I offer the following justification: 12 photographs, one from each month of the year, each captured while backcountry skiing in the Washington Cascades.