Although this is an older article, the conditions for the Wenatchee Valley Foothills may be nearing the conditions mentioned within the post. Please consider avalanche conditions before you go…You can’t be a picky skier when the snow is melting. Get it while you can, but read the tips from Andy Dappen below on what to use and how to get your Foothills ski fix. 

by Andy Dappen

I fetched a poorly thrown Frisbee onto the backyard yesterday and suddenly got excited. Several inches of snow smothered the lawn. That I expected. What I didn’t expect was the armor that let me walk across snow without busting through. I came indoors and told my wife,  “I’m going to ski the foothills in the morning.”

She rolled her eyes. She knows about, but doesn’t understand, this obtuse obsession.

“Isn’t it going to be icy?” she asked in a tone implying every skier would find ice hateful.

“I’m counting on that. The snowpack can be stupidly thin, yet skiable, if it’s icy.”

And if  the skiing is crummy skiing,,, you’re gonna love it?”

I smile. She knows what I’ll say even if she doesn’t understand the sentiment.

At 6:30 in the morning, I leave the car and boot up the north-facing, sage-brush covered hills on the opposite side of the Gun Club. My headlight illuminates the textured snow, which crunches underfoot. The crust is not as solid here as in my backyard but I hope it will support skis without breaking. I climb on and, in about half an hour, the snow alchemizes. I’m suddenly walking through a foot of stiff powder that I suspect will ski nicely without grounding out.

An hour later I’m 1500 vertical feet above Number 2 Canyon Road and I need to call it quits. My wife needs the car soon and there will be no harmony at home if my play interferes with my wife’s schedule. I start down.

The first turns are tentative. Will the skis float above the ground? Will dark matter gauge the bases? Yes and no. A few turns in I’m relatively confident about what to expect; foothills fool that I am, I start linking turns around tufts of bunch grass and canopies of sage brush. Beautiful.

Halfway down, the skis float out of the snow and skate onto a crust. The crust holds firm as I skid abrupt turns around woody obstacles. The plant life is thick and, while summer fires are serious matters in this flammable cauldron of the state, it’s not a crime to ponder how arson would improve the winter skiing. Despite the vegetative density, a judicious eye can link the lanes of white leading downward.

I’m home ten minutes sooner than advertised and I smile stupidly as I give my wife a morning kiss.

“Let me guess. It was terrible and therefore great.”

It’s an excellent guess… but wrong. The skiing bordered on good, but there’s more behind the stupid smile than skiing. Watching dawn break over Wenatchee, getting dusted by flurries of snow, being absorbed by the low clouds scouring the hills… All told, the morning was transcendent–the rest of the work day I’m the dweller of a different dimension.

Details, Details.

Where to Ski. Slopes in the Sage Hills and Castle Rock area are either closed for the winter or cannot be accessed legally. Please don’t violate the closures or trespass — the first jeopardizes summer use of the hills, the second is illegal and creates bad blood. Even with some of the foothills unavailable to us there are good slope to ski up Canyon Number 2 (opposite side of the road from the Gun Club) and up near Twin Peaks. The Saddle Rock area offers a number of good  opportunities. Get out the map and scope out the possibilities.

Equipment. Rock skis are strongly recommended. As you learn what slopes are good to ski and which aren’t, you’re going to hit some rocks. Might as well save the good skis. Often it’s fairly easy to boot up the slopes, so if you’re old skis don’t have touring bindings it may not matter.

Safety Matters. This is terrain where it’s unwise to rip. Underlying dark matter may suddenly slow down the boards. As you fly head first over the tips of the skis, you’ll suddenly realize your landing zones are littered with obstacles harder than flesh. Helmets are a good idea, but skiing with restraint is the best idea of all.

This article was originally published on 1/8/10.

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