If you clicked on this post because you thought WenatcheeOutdoors had finally resorted to porn, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This post is about Adventure Skate Skiing (ASS), which is a term coined by Jonathan Karpoff, a finance professor at the University of Washington who enjoys visiting the Lake Wenatchee environs to skate-ski in non-traditional places – namely, on groomed snowmobile tracks. Rather than being a goldfish going around and around the bowl of a small Nordic system, Karpoff is much more of free-ranging fish — a salmon – who takes on bigger migrations by skating the hundreds of miles of roads that are part of the state’s groomed snowmobile system.
For Karpoff, ASS beats all other forms of adventure sports including hiking, backpacking, sport climbing, mountaineering, running, biking, mountain biking, and paddling. The combination of the long distances traveled, scenery fit for magazines, wintertime quietude, and the excitement of coming down roads fast on really skinny skis – it’s all a potent combination of perspiration, inspiration, and exhilaration. There is, however, one rule to ASS that trumps all others: Get going early, get done early. This keeps you from encountering many, if any, snowmobiles.
The best ASS of all is getting on roads very early in the morning after they’ve been groomed and before snowmobiles rough them up. Karpoff writes, “The U.S. Forest Service and the State of Washington spend a gazillion dollars each year to groom hundreds of miles of perfect corduroy track all over the state. These tracks are skiing heaven: lonely, quiet, and winding through God’s country. After getting some ASS you will have a hard time being satisfied with the relatively paltry trails available to skate skiers.”
There are several well-groomed snowmobile havens in Washington State, but Karpoff’s website focuses on where he plays — the Lake Wenatchee and Entiat areas. The trails here are not only accessible to Karpoff, but they are not tooheavily used by snowmobiles. The Snoqualmie Pass area by contrast, has a sorry ASS record because there is much more motorized traffic and some of those snowmobilers are early risers. Karpoff also thinks the grooming around Lake Wenatchee and Entiat is simply the best, “Those guys create better conditions than you you’ll find at most Nordic centers, and there’s a hundred miles of it.”
Where to Go
As detailed in the Trail Guide published on Karpoff’s website, the local adventure skate skiing routes range from four to 42 miles in length. Some of these routes are virtually flat, while others can blow a heart valve by climbing 2,000 vertical feet. Most routes follow USFS roads that you can drive in the summer.
Karpoff says, “In the sparkling quiet of a winter dawn, these places are sheer magic. Fresh snow or hoarfrost glisten on trees, and occasional vistas sweep down the Chiwawa or Entiat valleys.
If you are a skater of average ability but have decent fitness, Karpoff says. “You can puff up long hills, zip around downhill curves, log 15 or 20 miles, and still get off the trail before breakfast. Even on bad days – when the snow is crummy or you pounded too many beers the night before –– you can complete a 14-16 mile trip in two hours. Occasionally I will set aside a weekday and log a 40-mile day (see Trip 14 to Trinity).
Access to all of this is through the Snoparks at Fish Lake, Van Creek, and Mad Creek (up the Entiat Valley Road). The routes Karpoff features on his website include:
Dumb A.S.S. Rules
Getting some ASS takes a little work, but it is worth it. You see, snowmobilers don’t get up very early. Most snowmobilers are too busy sitting on their a** to get any ASS. This leaves a window of opportunity between the time the trails are groomed and the time snowmobiles hit the trail – typically 6:30 to9:30 a.m. on the weekends, and a little later on weekdays.
This leaves some ASS available to anyone willing to grab it. There is one rule, however:
ASS Rule #1: GET IN AND GET OUT EARLY
I mean this. If you don’t, you will be up to you’re a** in snowmobiles. This can be bad, and I don’t wish it on anyone. This brings us to the next rule:
ASS Rule #2: DO NOT FORGET ASS RULE #1
There aren’t any other rules.
Fortunately, you can obey Rule #1 and still have about three hours to get in the highest quality skate skiing around. On some weekdays, you can stretch this another several hours. Granted, the risk of snowmobiles at any time adds an extra element of uncertainty, but this is Adventure Skate Skiing, after all.
Q&A with JK about A.S.S.
Q: How many people practice this form of skiing?
A: There are other skiers out there doing this, but not many. You are unlikely to see anyone else on an ASS ski, as long as you follow ASS Rule #1. You might find the tell-tale Y-shaped tracks of another skier or two as you return to the Sno-Park after a heart-thumping ski. Snowmobilers were well-represented when funds for winter recreation were doled out. One of my interests in promoting ASS is to encourage more people to do this. If it catches on, we may have enough clout to allocate one of those trails exclusively to skiers, at least during a few days during the season. Then we would not have to abide by ASS Rule #1, at least on those days.
Q: How do I get to the Fish Lake Sno-Park?
A: The Fish Lake Sno-Park − the starting point for the specific routes described in the Trail Guide − is 16 miles northwest of Leavenworth. Follow Highway 2 west of Leavenworth (or east of Stevens Pass) to Coles Corner. Turn onto Highway 207 and follow it north for 4.4 miles. Go right at Chiwawa Loop Road for 1.2 miles to Chiwawa River Road/USFS Road 62. Go left about 1 mile to the Sno-Park. Sno-Park permits ($40/year in 2015) are needed to park.
Q: What are the best days of the week for getting some ASS?
A: What day wouldn’t be good? If you want a serious answer, it helps to know that the groomers frequently (but not always) follow a weekly pattern. What gets groomed when depends on trail use, snowfall, and the grooming budget. So nothing is certain. Nonetheless, you can count on most of the system being groomed on most Saturdays and Sundays. Ike will groom up to Trinity about once a week, typically on a weekday. And Pacific Mountain Services grooms the Alder Ridge, Faultline, and Beaver Creek routes quite often. Track the grooming here with this link from LakeWenatcheeInfo.com or use these State Park links: Fish Lake Trails and Mad River/ Entiat Trails. Also check this thread at WenatcheeOutdoorsForum.org for any recent user reports.
Q: What should I do if snowmobiles are coming my way?
A: Read here if you want my wiseASS comment. The best course of action is to get over to the side of the road in a visible spot. Be polite — you’re allowed to use these trails but snowmobilers won’t be expecting (or looking for) skiers. If you’re polite and courteous, the large majority of snowmobilers will respond in kind.
Q: Where do I get a map of the snowmobile trails?