Story and Photos
By Andy Dappen
“I’m taking the day off because of you,” Mike Rolfs told me when Wenatchee Outdoors announced that all residents of our fair valley should not work but play outdoors in nature on the Friday closest to the spring equinox.
“So what are you doing for Wenatchee Outdoors Day?” he asked.
I hadn’t finalized my plans but was thinking that a long mountain bike ride was in order. “That’s a terrible idea,” Mike said. “You should join me on some powder laps in the Stemilt Basin.”
How could I argue with a guy who supported us in believing that, as a society, we work too much and neglect important incidentals like exercise, opportunities to de-stress, and appreciation of nature?
How could I argue with perhaps the only person in the entire Wenatchee Valley who was following our advice and using this particular Friday to celebrate outdoor recreation?
I couldn’t. At 10:30 a.m. on Wenatchee Outdoors Day I met him at Midway (the mid-station at Mission Ridge). I had already taken in a morning meeting (shame on me) and had talked to the ski area’s snow sports director. She told me about all the fifth-grade students who were currently on the mountain. In March Mission Ridge brings all the fifth graders in the valley up to the mountain and gives them free lessons, rentals, and a lift ticket for the day.
It’s the ski area’s nefarious attempt to peddle the cocaine of snow to these innocents and turn them into little addicts.
There were classrooms of kids on the mountain for Wenatchee Outdoors Day and it gave me a warm glow to know these ne’er-do-wells were out having fun on our day. Their presence here had nothing to do with our influence, but they were embracing the spirit of the day.
Mike and I, both being season-pass holders at Mission, took the lifts to the top of the mountain. Then we hiked east along Windy Ridge to the microwave towers to start our tour.
Along the way we ran into Matt Dolan and Aaron Wright. “You participating in Wenatchee Outdoors Day,” I asked? They gave us blank stares — they were here because there was semi-fresh snow on the mountain and they were doing what they always did — making quality of life a front-burner issue.
Near the microwave tower we passed several acquaintances who were legal eagles, hiking with skis on their shoulders, looking for fresh powder to harvest.
“You all playing hooky on Wenatchee Outdoors Day,” I asked? I soon discovered these and several other attorneys from Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward were enjoying the firm’s yearly Ski Day.
None of these attorneys knew a lick about our self-declared holiday but Patrick Aylward graciously offered, “If it helps promote the concept, add us to your numbers.”
Now those of us observing Wenatchee Outdoors Day were nearly a hundred strong and, with a fortified feeling of solidarity, Mike and I left the ski resort and glided the half mile over to the Stemilt Basin.
Here on southeast-facing slopes, we harvested what was surely the softest, purest stash of uncut snow to be found in the general Mission Ridge environs on this fine day.
Downward we went, finding interconnected clearings to ski for a thousand vertical feet. Slowly the clearings gave ways to glades that slowly thickened into forests that became poster children of those places where you might want to ski with a helmet.
At the 4,300-foot level we completed what was a first for both of us — a descent that terminated at the Upper Wheeler Reservoir. Surely we felt the very same sense of discovery and satisfaction that consumed Balboa as he first looked upon the Pacific Ocean as we spied the reservoir and glided onto its ice-coated surface.
Across the reservoir we skated, listening to the ice growl under our weight.
Then, on a peninsula splitting the reservoir into distinct lobes, we sat in the sunshine enjoying a moment of psychic well-being as we discussed our feelings about being the escapees of capitalism, even if just for the day. All work and no play, we decided, not only make Jack a dull boy, it may also make him a disturbed boy.
Soon skins were stuck to skis and we started the sweaty work of climbing the 2,000 vertical feet separating us from the basin’s rim.
Of course there could be no returning to town before the workday was officially over. Such a mistake might lure us back to the office where we could commit the sin of working on the “to do” list.
This necessitated a second run down through the basin with Mike spewing a non-stop string of whoops that clung to the air as tenaciously as his tracks clung to the powder.
By the time we had completed the next climb leading us to the margins of the ski area, the ski lifts had been still for over an hour and the hush of early evening hung over the hill. We each thanked the other for keeping our priorities straight; then we carved turns snaking down to the parking lot.
We gloated in the luxury of it all. A glorious day was behind us and we still had an entire weekend ahead!
“A person could get addicted to these three-day weekends,” I told Mike, “Maybe Wenatchee Outdoors Day needs to be a monthly affair.”
Andy Dappen is a local outdoor journalist who founded the WenatcheeOutdoors.org website. Prior to this he was a contributing editor to Powder Magazine for more than a decade. He has also been a frequent contributor to both Skiing Magazine and to SKI.
This article was originally written 3/13/2019.