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Shaun

New to Alpine Touring, location advice?

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I sold the snowboard and bought an AT setup. I would like to do some ski mountaineering in the future, but now I need to learn how to ski. I had them at Snoqualmie on Saturday, and tried to take them to Paradise today, but the road was closed. I am wondering if anyone knows of a fairly safe and not to steep place to go without having to pay for a lift ticket. I am looking for something that would be a somewhere between a green and a blue run. I am in Olalla (by Gig Harbor), so the Olympics or central cascades would work best for me. Perhaps Hurricane Ridge? Or Paradise? Thanks for any help!

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Hurricane Ridge and Paradise both offer gentle terrain and you may be able to talk to a ranger about where to entertain yourself if you go there on weekends.

 

To learn how to ski, though, the price of three or four days or evenings (maybe even six), at a ski area, in a relatively short time-period will be worth it. Start on the groomed slopes, then move to the ungroomed or chopped up stuff on the edges of the runs.

 

If you have to climb up the hill for each try at skiing down, it is a lot of work to get enough runs to figure out how to ski. It takes a lot of repetition to develop even fairly medium ski skills.

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I have to agree with Matt. Learning to ski in the backcountry is really hard. Build some skills at a ski area and then head out into the BC. You will learn much faster.

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Of course I understand that a ski area is better, I plan on going to the lifts as often as I can, but the price does limit that to an extent. I thought that it would be better to go somewhere like Paradise on the days that I can't get to a ski area than not go at all. Will that be counter-productive? Should I only go to ski areas until I get better? The transition from a board to skis seems easier than I thought that it would be, and it is going well. Even after just one day at Snoqualmie, I was feeling good on the easier blue runs.

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Feeling comfortable on easier blue runs at Snoqualmie might not be quite enough to feel confident in the BC. You might be better off getting lessons and skiing inbounds until, say, black runs at Crystal are not too tough for you. BC skiing takes your ability down quite a ways.

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I guess what I need to know now is this: should I just go to the ski areas until I am okay with black runs and avoid any back country, even though I will only be able to go maybe once a month? Or would it be better to go find some gentile runs at Hurricane Ridge or Paradise on the weekends that I can't make it to the ski area, with still going to the ski area when ever I can?

 

Finding some gentile bc slopes won't hurt, will it? Just not as good as the ski area, right?

 

Just want to make sure I got that straight.

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Sounds like you're asking for easy backcountry slopes... unfortunately, there isn't too much of that that is easy-access in washington, since things tend to be densely treed near the bottom.

 

Paradise would have the best "green/blue" bc terrain I can think of around here. There are plenty of gentle open slopes in Paradise valley.

 

You might find some easy terrain in the bowls across from Crystal Mtn, but getting to and from there would be a chore if all you can handle are resort blues.

 

Skyline Ridge across from Stevens would be another choice, but it's steeper and more treed than stuff you'd find at Paradise.

 

Or go to Hyak on one of the days it's closed (but after it's had a dump) and skin up the runs.

 

A few years ago I made the transition from skiing to boarding. I tried going full on in the backcountry right away - it was fun, but I flailed a little too much and felt bad about slowing down my partners. So I imposed upon myself a "backcountry boarding moratorium" for a couple of months, until I'd honed my skills at the resorts. It was a good idea.

 

ps: Yodelin is just east of Stevens Pass, on the south side of the highway. Pick up one of the backcountry skiing guidebooks, it should be in there.

Edited by philfort

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I don't think it will hurt, just be careful and don't get frustrated. I'm an experienced skiier trying to make the transition to backcountry and I've been surprised at how hard it is.

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It will not slow your development of technique to go enjoy the scenery at Paradise or Hurricane Ridge. Enjoy!

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Thanks everyone for the input and help. I will be going to a ski area as often as I can, but I guess that I will also go and check out some other places as well.

 

If anyone has any other ideas of places to go, please let me know. Anything in SE Olympics? Thanks!

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For the most part you should be able to skin up under the chair lifts. It is Public Land, aka Forest service land. Sometimes they will kick you off ( which they have no rightboxing_smiley.gif) but most of the time if you stay off to the side of the lifts as you skin up you shouldn't have a problem. rockband.gif

David

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I would second the vote for Hyak (Summit East). it is closed during the week so you can go up there and skin laps all you want in safe terrain. no avy danger, green/blue runs to practice on and easy access.

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I agree with Matt that it won't hurt anything getting out in the B.C. for some fun and scenery - will also show you how much work you've got to do back at the area.

 

The sad truth is that this game is expensive if you want to get it down. My advice would be to shell out the bucks for some good lessons - 2 or 3 should do it. That made all the difference for me - I had been skiing for a few years by the time I was in junior high, but had plateaued at an intermediate/advanced level (for the day). I was then lucky to have a very strict Austrian instructor. All the other kids in the class dropped out because they didn’t like him, leaving just a buddy and I who had paid with our own paper route money and persevered. He hammered the importance of pole plants (I didn't understand what difference that would make) for weeks until we finally got it and practiced enough to make a difference. Wish I could thank him now for all the years of great skiing he gave me!

 

I also agree that BC takes it to another level. When I learned to tele I was capable of doing most any run at Snowbird without a fall on alpine gear, but it took 3 years of every weekend in the BC with friends at my own level to get to a point I felt competent. Modern rando gear certainly accelerates the process, but it still takes time, effort, and $. Of course the process is great fun also.

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Shaun,

 

This isn't so much good location advice but I'll pitch it to you anyway.

 

I moved to Oregon years ago as a mediocre (at best) skier but was talked into joining the Mt Hood Ski Patrol by a co-worker. I tried out and mysteriously was selected for on-the-hill duties and went through a year as an apprentice. Let me say this about that: YOU GET ROCK SOLID ON YOUR BASIC SKILLS.

 

It was a year of hell- dragging sleds, learning WFR stuff, dragging more sleds, setting ropelines, sweeping areas, dragging more sleds, setting ropelines, cleaning tower pads, dragging sleds, practicing evaluations on slope and dragging sleds. It was A LOT of work but when you're inducted you do have the confidence that you can handle whatever you need to wherever it may be.

 

If you're worried about budget and want to learn to ski ANYTHING (granted maybe not with TGR style, but you'll get down it well), bust your hump to get on a patrol and work it for all it's worth.

 

Many side benefits too- ski for free and cut the lines, lots of experience with beacon searches etc, avy classes, mucho education... Just my two cents.

 

Either way, like the others have suggested learn rock solid skills on moderate terrain and 90% of the world will be your oyster!

 

Granted none of the above tells you where you should go ski to learn, but that's the beauty of thread drift. Now back on topic...

 

Chris

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You should probably ski groomers until that's boring, then ski mogul runs and shortcuts until they're not a problem for you... THEN go do some backcountry. I won't speak for anyone else but one of the reasons I prefer the backcountry is that the ski area gets old.

 

The time to start doing "backcountry" is the spring/summer months. Start off with a couple of runs down from Camp Muir in May. After that you might consider the Southside of Adams.

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i'd sort of disagree with this. i'm relatively new to my touring gear. and i'm certainly no great shakes in-bounds. my first couple of times skiing in the spring were miserable, discouraging, heavy snow slush fests. i hate skiing moguls in-bounds why on earth would i want to go practice it on my AT gear? i don't run into to many of them in the BC. the hyak recommendation is a good one. there's plenty of places with moderate slopes and not too many trees. these are high on my list of places to go since i still seem to have some sort of strange gravitational pull towards trees. grin.gif

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Just to add my 2 cents:

 

In the backcountry, the biggest issue you will have (most of the time) is dealing with untracked snow. Around here, that frequently means thick chowder, weird layers like heavy-on-top-of-light snow ('upside down snow'), crusts (the much-despised surface breakable crust being all too common and annoying), inconsistent wind effects, etc. It's just harder when you have to battle just to stay afloat without either rocketing downhill out of control or coming to a dead wallowing stop. All the issues of rhythm, balance, and control which you will hear about in lessons go on top of that.

 

There are plenty of challenges and joys you get to deal with at the lifts. Going fairly fast on low-angled terrain, for instance, is one thing you will be able to do easily on blue runs after a season or two, which is still fairly hard to achieve in the BC on a winter snowpack (it's easier on spring corn). The fact is, chopped up and packed down snow is much more predictable, even though it's faster (all the snow wallowing around your ankles and calves in the BC slows you down big time).

 

To make a long story short, you will have different challenges to deal with at the lifts and in the BC. To be a good all-around skier, you will need to be competent at both, but because it's so easy to get a lot of vert in at the lifts, those skills will come quicker than the BC stuff. So yeah, mix and match, and expect to have a slow learning curve in the BC.

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something else to consider is to save money for a lesson. you will learn so much more, and faster, if you take a lesson. after that go practice what you learned skinning up at the resorts, like Hyak, when they are closed. eventually you will get the skills to try the BC when the conditions are good. and someday when they are bad. but even when the BC is bad it is still better than a resort! LOL

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