had Martin Luther King Day off work. The weather looked awful. Gwen and
I headed east in hopes for a day in the snow not in the mud. Smith
Brook Road is the route to better places. I've been to Mt. McCasuland
and Lichtenberg Mountain. This day the road was the destination. We
brought snowshoes and cross country skis. If it was an icy mess the
snowshoes would still work. We cruised over Stevens Pass, crossed over
to the westbound lanes and pulled over to the parking along the wide
shoulder. There were half a dozen cars already there. It was almost
10:00 am when we started out.
The snow was surprisingly good. Skies would work fine. This was only
Gwen's second time on xc skis. Though we have not had much snow so far
this winter, the embankment along the highway was about eight feet
tall. Snowplows pile it up. We skied along the top for the quarter mile
or so to the start of Smith Brook Road. The snow was soft and
compacted. The start is only at 3187' and the snow depth was about 20"
I'd guess. Enough to fully cover the road. Several other groups passed
by as we started up the road. For the most part there were two packed
tracks with more snow in between and on both sides of the road.
Snowshoes and skis had packed the tracks.
The temperature was just below freezing. There was little wind and it
was not all that cold. I've skied the road when it is icy and it can be
a pain coming down even though it is not very steep. We climbed up the
road at a steady pace as Gwen got the feel for skiing. I've only been
on skies once or twice in recent winters so it took be a while to feel
comfortable again. We had snow on the highway driving over the pass and
there was fresh snow on Smith Brook Road and the trees. I have not had
many snowy trips this winter and the fresh snow was pretty and
welcomed. About a mile up snow began to fall. Light at first then
heavier. We had almost no visibility. Where the way comes out of forest
onto a flat area the snow fell very heavy.
All the fresh snow promised to make skiing down even slower and for the
first ski trip of the year that was not such a bad thing. At the first
switchback, the snow was still thin enough that a creek across the road
was running. We had to side step down, step across, and climb back up.
We climbed to the next switchback and I checked with Gwen. She was fine
to head a little higher. The avalanche forecast was for "considerable"
and before the next switchback in the road are several gullies that can
let loose. I did not plan to go beyond that point. We continued up to
about 4,000' where we stopped for lunch. We had skied about 2.3 miles
with 800' of gain.
It was colder now with a little wind. Lunch was pretty short. For my
skill level the trip down was excellent. Not fast but fast enough. I
had good control. The lack of ice was great. Gwen had a tougher time
since she had no downhill experience on skinny skis. She did improve
the farther we went. I remember all the effort of falling and getting
up when I started. She switched to snowshoes for some steeper spots but
went back to skies farther down.
This was not a long trip but it was a lot of fun. The crowd was
minimal. Good conditions for learning with few folks zipping by. On the
way down we were passed by three snowcycles. They looked like
motorcycles with a ski mounted in front and an narrow track in the
back. They flattened down the snow turned the narrow tracks into flat
soft snow across the road. I did not like the noise and smell but they
did a nice job of grooming the road. We were back in time to pass the
ski area before the crowds headed for home There was skier traffic but
nothing like the heavy traffic I've been in before. Once back on the
west side of the crest we had rain for much of the drive home. A day
being snowed on beats getting rained on every time. Hopefully, I will
get back out on skis again this winter.
Click on thumbnails to get
Skiing Along Highway
Smith Brook Road
Gwen On Skis
Turn Around Spot
Beast Mode Hat
Gwen Skiing Down