Smith Brook Road

I 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.

Skiing Along Highway
Smith Brook Road
Moderate Grade
Gwen On Skis
Heading Up
Snowing Hard
Turn Around Spot
Flocked Trees
Beast Mode Hat
Around Switchback
Low Clouds
Gwen Skiing Down
Final Stretch
Groomed Road
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015