Credit: Kevan Lynch

Spring Ski Touring on the West Coast: As the days get longer and the weather warmer, conditions are ripe for some fantastic back-country skiing.

One of my favourite locations, Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, in Washington State, is about a 2.5-hour drive from Vancouver, BC, depending on border delays. Mt Baker lies in the North Cascade Mountain Range — this is the gateway to the Mt Baker Wilderness area. It offers outdoor adventure at any time of the year but due to the volume of snow, which is often the deepest anywhere in the world, spring activities abound. In particular Mt Baker offers great backcountry ski (and snowshoe) options for most ability levels from November to July (if you are determined).

You must buy a recreation pass to park at the various trailheads. You can buy day or annual passes; daily passes cost $5 US.

Favourite accommodation: Mountaineers Lodge; a rustic 1950s-era volunteer-built facility sleeping 62, dormitory style. The lodge is owned, maintained and operated by volunteer Mountaineer Club members for the use of its members. Prepare to do some basic chores to help with the upkeep. At time, some meals are included. You have easy access to the trails due to its excellent location.

Additional recommended gear to take out on the trails:

    • Avalanche Kit:  Beacon, Probe, Shovel

    • Comfortable Day-pack

    • First Aid Kit

    • Headlamp: Extra set of batteries for headlamp & beacon

    • Goggles and/or UV protecting wraparound glasses (protect from winds & sun glare on the snow)

    • Extra set of gloves, jacket and pants: Weather can change on a dime here, even in spring

    • Topographical map & compass

    • Cellphone: Check for coverage first. Keep it turned off so it doesn't interfere with avalanche beacon signal

    • Sunscreen & lip protection

    • Buddies: Never travel alone

    • Common Sense: Don't stretch the boundaries of your skills

    • Advise someone of your expected tour and time of return

Being fit and having some backcountry avalanche and rescue skills will make for a safer, more enjoyable trip. There are many options available for learning these skills, including the Alpine Club of Canada.  All ages including Zoomers (Boomers with Zip - like me!), are welcome. It's never too late. Get involved!

Possible Day Trip options:

• Skyline Divide - 2000m
• Heliotrope Ridge Trail - 2180m
• Watson Traverse of Mt Baker
• Goat Mountain - 2050m
• Ruth Mountain - 2169m
• Herman Saddle - 1610m
• Table Mountain Circuit 1615m
• Shuksan Arm - 1707m
• Mt. Ann - 1780m

Detailed information about ski touring options in Mt Baker: Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis: A Guide to Ski Mountaineering, by John Baldwin.

Post by Pam Johnson/Mz Zoomer
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