I have waited 50 years to do this and it was worth every penny.
Many months ago my friend Tony Callen was asked if he wanted to do this. And that he could invite his friends. Long story short, I jumped at the opportunity.
On the way we hit up Owens Meats in Cle Elum which is amazing! I heartily recommend the Landjager and the beef jerky. And not being guys that quit so easily, we also had lunch (and beers) at the Caboose. And then we had dinner (and more beers) at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. Once in Mazama we stayed at the Freestone Inn which is the epitome of huge winter lodge. Lots of logs, a gargantuan stone fireplace and outdoor hot tub. After getting settled in we had some beers. I know, ouch...
The original plan was to drive up Tuesday, ski Wednesday and then decompress and drive back Thursday while possibly hitting up Stevens Pass on the way home. Except you can't count on Mother Nature.
Wednesday turned into the big wait. The helicopter took off with the first load of customers... and then it returned about 15 minutes later. Visibility was too low to land, drat. The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking, playing cards, shooting the shit with a bunch of ski industry reps and hoping the weather would break.
Nothing left to do but head back to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery for good and beers. But only after playing about a dozen games of pool (and drinking some beer) at Three Fingered Jack's Saloon. Because it was the only place open! This town totally shuts down in the winter. We saw signs that read, "Open every other Saturday" and, "Closed for the season". Sheesh.
The weather forecast for Thursday was much better and it had snowed most of the night so we showed up bright and early full with anticipation. Yesterday we had participated in the avalanche beacon training and the helicopter orientation so today it was just go time.
We were teamed up with Paul (one of the owners) and John (our guide) and it was the total dream team. We skied and skied and skied until the pilot couldn't fly anymore. Then we went back and started planning for next year. It was that amazing.
My camera was actually up to the task but believe you me when I say it's hard to take pictures and ski at the same time. I had to make a conscious effort to keep pulling it out and not just shoot down the mountain. It's no freaking wonder all these HD hands-free cameras are so popular.
This was my first time on real powder skis - holy crap! They really are that wide. And you know what? They really work well in these conditions. I'd be lying if I said it didn't take me a couple of runs to get used to them but what a blast once I did. Hell. Yes.
We only missed the very top landing site and our pilot tried for it. As soon as we were about to touch down an incredibly thick cloud blew in and the rotor wash created a whiteout. I think the skids actually touched down for a second but then suddenly we were tipping back into the abyss and banked out of there. Something to come back for without a doubt.
I was dressed perfectly except while eating lunch my hands (and mittens) got really, really cold and I didn't recover for two runs. At least I did recover. Stupid circulation.
It was so. Incredibly. Quiet. Even while we were skiing! I love that.
Here are all the pictures and video.
|Time of Day||9:00 AM|
|Weather||mid 20s, some wind up top, mixed sun and snow and clouds|
|Time||5 hours total time?|
|Distance||9 top-to-bottom runs, perhaps 20+ thousand vertical feet?|
|Equipment||Insane powder skis, this was my first time on them ever. They work.|