Windy Pass

Gary and I kicked around a ski trip to Windy Pass for Sunday. The forecast was for 3-5" of snow overnight. Without it we would have a very icy trip. We decided to make the final decision at 6:00 am Sunday morning;. The telemetry showed about 3" at Snoqualmie Pass. Our starting point at the Hyak Sno-Park along the railroad grade is some 450' lower. We decided to give it a shot. We met in Eastgate at 7:15 am. The sno-park opens at 8:00 am. We arrived at about 7:56 am. There were three cars ahead of us. The lot opened right at 8:00 am. The lot had just enough snow to hide the parking stripes. We were packed up and walked to the start at about 8:10 am. Several other groups were out ahead of us.

The first 1.3 miles on the railroad grade went by fast. The track had been very recently groomed. With just the few inches of new snow the track was deep and the skate lane was almost untouched. I was a bit unsure of a trip to Windy Pass if there was not much new snow but was game to give it a try. We managed to ski up the short trail up to the Cold Creek Road/ski trail. There were a number of trees down across the trail. Hopefully, we can get in there after the snow is gone and cut them out. We reached the Cold Creek road and turned left. This is the Common Corridor. It allows skiers to access the Nordic Pass Trail at Windy Pass. Travel is free from here up to the pass but not beyond on the paid ski trails. The trail is in forest here and fallen needles on the snow make it look like a normal April. The track had been very recently groomed. Only a track or two in the middle. The groomed track on the sides was perfect for me. We passed on skier on the grade and two more where we left the track. We saw only a few more all the way up to Windy Pass.

The ski area Nordic trails open at about 9:00 am. That gave us almost an hour head start. The freshly groomed track was better than I expected. Just enough softer new snow in the middle to allow me to snowplow and check my speed on the way down. The most recent forecast was for rain after about noon. We hoped to get up and down before then. We quickly dropped to cross a bridge. The edges were breaking away. It was plenty wide enough but not edge to edge solid snow seen most all winter long. The fresh snow put a layer of white on all the trees. It looked a lot like winter on this first day of spring. It is a gentle uphill until the spot where there used to be a big warming hut yurt on the right. Now there is a small wooden warming hut on the left side. There is even an outhouse. It was empty when we went by. On the way down I smelled the smoke before seeing the hut with smoke pouring out of the chimney.

From there the grade steepens. First up to the switchback where the summer trail to Twin Lakes takes off. It was very gray and overcast as we ascended. After the second switchback the route is a climbing with slight turns to the right leading up to the pass. We averaged over 4 mph on the railroad grade. We were very slow skiing through the trees up to the upper road. Our pace was good on the flatter sections then we slowed a bit higher up. High up one young backcountry skier zoomed on by with really big fat and slower skis. I mention this because this was my 33rd ski trip to Windy Pass in 32 years. I used to be pretty quick too. We reached the pass and continued a short way to a wide spot where we took a break. It was a bit windy at the pass but less so where we stopped. We arrived at 10:12 am. Right about 2 hours to ski up 5.1 miles. Our moving speed was 2.8 mph. We did better on the way down.

There were no views. I have some nice photos of Granite Mountain from here on a sunny day. Not this day. Our break lasted 16 minutes. At 10:28 am we started down. We immediately passed a group of 4 or 5 skiers coming up. We saw dozen or so more coming up on our way down to the warming hut. Not crowded but the crowd was building. Gary just took off. I went slower as I battled to say on my feet all the way down. A battle I won. Down past the two switchbacks to the warming hut and a little beyond took me 17 minutes. It took Gary about 13. He averaged 11.1 mph. Much faster than our ascent. The snow was not hard and fast. It was just about perfect for me. The crowd grew on the rest of the trip back. Not like a good day in January but enough on an overcast day in mid March.

When we reached the end of the Common Corridor we took off our skis to walk back through the forest. It would have been slower and I would have fallen a few times trying to ski down on the now packed then snow. We saw several snowshoers also taking this route. At the bottom we put skis back on for the last flat 1.3 miles back to the car. Lots of folks on the railroad grade but not as many as I feared. We reached the end at 11:29 am. We came down 5.3 miles in 1:01. Even with photo stops we averaged 5.3 mph. It rained for much of the drive home. We had a little snow fall on us during the ski trip but did not get any rain.

This was my third ski trip of the year. I have done one trip a year recently. The last time I have done three was in 2017. In the old days I would have three done before Christmas many years. In both 2001 and 2002 I did Windy Pass four times each year. Still, I am glad to have down at least three this year. There is still time to get in another trip or two if the snow cooperates. Gary has done three other trips with family so he has a respectable six trips this year.  The snow conditions were much better than we expected. The thin layer of freshly packed and groomed snow was really good for a skier of my ability. A bit slow but fast enough to move along pretty will and under control. It turned out to be a great day for a ski trip.

Crossing Parking Lot
Lake Keechelus
Gary On The Grade
The Cold Creek Trail
Photo Time
Freshly Flocked Trees
First Switchback
Lake Is Somewhere
Above 2nd Switchback
Gary Skiing
Nearing Windy Pass
Brunch Time
Downhill Time
2.4 miles Down Fast
About To Leave Road
Back On The Grade
Steep Side Hill
Almost Back
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2022