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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Pure Luck

Snow covers everything in sight looking north from Mt. Baker.
   Now and then everyones luck rolls around. Most people try to time it with streaks in Las Vegas, running the table at black jack or pulling a winner at the slots or some other game of chance. Not me, never play the tables and really have no interest in slots. Rarely even scratch a lottery ticket and that is only when some one gives them to me.
   That did not stop a couple of friends and I from snatching an ace and king from the deck, accidentally timing snow storms in the Pacific Northwest. We planned a trip out to Seattle, hoping for some snow since everything closer was a little dry. Turns out the plans were perfect and we roll into Seattle under the second day of a low pressure that has brought rain to the area. Rain in Seattle usually means snow in the mountains to the north and off we go to Mt. Baker in the Snoqualmie National Forest near Bellingham, Washington.
   The day we arrive it has exceeded expectations and left twenty inches of fresh snow, enough to give the avi crews fits and the lifts are delayed an hour. On top of it they can only open lifts #5 and #7 since the rest of the mountain is still under avalanche danger and they do not trust all the snow starved ski rats to stay off any overhanging terrain. We spend the day ripping around in what verges on rain since the snow line has climbed to 5,000 feet.
   Over night things change however, as the snow line drops to 2,500 and an additional seventeen inches falls on the accumulations from the previous day leaving twenty-eight inches for the crews to deal with but an all hands on deck call gets the remaining lifts up and running and the whole mountain becomes fair game with avi beacons on.
   The tree well danger warnings posted everywhere are starting to look a little ominous, since the only place there is any visibility is thru the trees. With all the white stuff falling it is creating one big sensory depravation chamber and the darkness of the spruce help create a little contrast so you can tell where you're going. Rather scary looking at a six foot hole with every turn as you pass by a trunk hoping you can avoid tumbling into it. The adrenaline and fear give a tremendously exhilarating rush.
   Day three brings even more snow and now the line is down to 500 feet so it is getting fluffier and it ends up measuring twenty inches. Now the crowds start showing up, the college kids in Bellingham are ditching classes and the mid week lull has turned into an absolute powder hound stampede. Lifts are delayed only fifteen minutes thanks to a massive effort by the avi crew and then the horde charges onto fresh fields of pure white. The trick now is to stay on the steepest terrain, otherwise you are stranded in a pile of mashed potatoes, swimming like a discarded cockroach in the toilet bowl.
   The horde is released and a mad dash of skiers and snowboarders attack the terrain like fire ants over a foolishly placed foot. In an hour the entire mountain is tracked over, but the snow keeps coming and covering everything again to start the whole game again.
   The final tally is five feet of fresh snow over a four day period but then comes the news that the day we leave the temperature is expected to rise and rain is to cover the area and the whole place is closing for a few days to wait for colder temperatures to return.
   We are driving out the road as the last sloppy flakes hit the windshield, then there is just the splotchy streak of rain drops and wipers beating in rhythmic time. The three of us look at each other with stupid grins, realizing that we have just hit this storm perfectly, the only possible explanation is lady luck truly being with us.
Every surface ends up with a cover of icing.
Washington State Highway 542 only leads to mountains.
Kevin Fujii tries not to stop in the deep stuff.

Clearing snow before the lifts can open.

Kevin Fujii makes his turns above the snow to save a little energy. 


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