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Mr H slept while we skied…”

Big Chief night BC (5600')


Night skiing in a blizzard on Big Chief Mountain (Stevens Pass)

Jan 11, 2013

Zack Jessel, Jeff Rich, Franklin Bradshaw & Rafa

Weather: Full on blizzard, winds at Tye Mill chair clocked at 60mph, snowing and 26F



It’s a blizzard, Jeff and Zack took the day off, while Rafa and I worked.  Some ski apre then what better to do, but go BC by headlamp in a storm. 


Are we crazy going out again

A good day of skiing, finished with all afternoon skiing Double Diamond at Stevens Pass.  Jeff and Zack wanted to get some evening turns, Rafa was up for it.  We used Big Chief chair to get to the base of Double Diamond chair (7:30p).  Then started skinning up in the abundant new snow.  Winds howling there was not shelter from the strong gust.  Later we’d learn they topped 60mph at the Tye Mill Chair anemometer.   A quarter of the way up the resort lost power.  In the dark four headlamps continued up the Double Diamond run.  I wonder if we were seen from the base area and what they thought?  Gaining the ridge we were hit by the full force of the storm (c5600’, 7:58).  The unloading ramp area already had large wind berms.  A sheltered break to dry off and relax a little was a nice respite.  Silas gave a call, looks like more to add for the fun tomorrow.



A break in the storm


Our first run was an east traverse, cutting the slope, nothing moved.  Directly above Upper Black Forest we dropped like blind mice making turns.  Not a smooth as I expected, but good.  Lower the gladded area was fun.  More fun by headlamp than during the day.  We traversed and dropped skier’s right of Andromeda into Goats Gulley.  All along good turns as we leap frogged by lamp light for c1170’.  It was tempting to descend to the bottom, but at c4400’ we pulled out of the gulley skier’s right and started heading up Orion (8:45p).  Zack and I broke trail up.  As Jeff and Rafa ascended our track was at times already blown away. 


Sheltered in the trees below the ridge we re-gathered, made plans then headed to the west entrance to Wild Katz.  This would be Rafa’s first time skiing Wild Katz.  Not many can say their first run in it was by headlamp after skinning up to it at night.  Not much shelter from the howling wind.  It sounded like we were at the edge of a jet turbine test facility. 



De-skinned and ready at -60mph for Wild Katz


9:43p, time to drop in.  60mph wind accelerated snow pellets coming up the hill forced through the small entry we entered.  Zero visibility as we entered.  I hoped no berms had formed.  To our luck entry went well.  Once in proper we checked the hill left then right.  Wind scored and not great.  A venture to the right knocked off a good size flow.  We waited and watched.  Time for plan “B”.  We worked farther right, more tree shelter, less wind and the snow was holding better in place.  We took turns at the top, some steep sections, I had been thinking, glad we aren’t going to have to ski the tight trees.  Now in them, it was perfect.  The snow helped with keeping things in slow motion.  Well, maybe also skiing by limited lamp light.  Night skiing was better than day in the trees.  Focus was closer and easy to keep track of the group seeing the lamps flowing down the hill weaving a web of light through the gladed trees.


Turn after turn, hooting all along.  We spit out with smiles wider than our faces onto promenade.  Resort lights back on and we saw at least on skier coming up behind us.  Last run… we glided back to the RV lot just before 10pm.  They say it’s all in the timing –storm, powder, great night crew and the best turns of the day.


Now to head back to Skykomish and get some sleep.  Meeting in the morning for another BC tour.  The blizzard is expected to continue…



Thanks guys for the nice evening tour

And thank you for reading, and happy turns,




Ascent/descent: 3.4m, 2672vert, 2h40m


Gear:    Skins, beer, headlamp, of course avy gear!




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