Three & Done at Smuggs

Untracked Two Days After the Storm

Three runs and done at Smuggs. That was not due to the conditions or injury, but rather fatigue. Coming off twelve days in a row of work averaging 12 hours per day, I took Saturday off from skiing to recover despite the recent storm and epic reports from the notch. I assumed one day of doing nothing was enough for recovery, but it definitely was not.

I got right to work at Smuggs and delved into a line I suspected existed but had not yet discovered. Discovering new lines is always a treat, especially at areas that you have mostly mapped out. But you never want to be in discovery mode, especially at Smuggs, with anything less than your ‘A’ game. I hacked my way down the line looking rather amateurish. But I felt that the turns were not there so I decided not to force it.

Given my lack of energy, I opted for something a bit more mellow for my next run. I found some boot deep untracked despite skiing two days after the storm. This was a very well known woods area but the line goes against the fall line and requires counter intuitive thinking. Always a late-day-go-to but two days after the storm during a weekend is exceptional. It was only a half dozen untracked turns but far more than I expected.

Conditions in general were wicked firm and fast on the groomers despite the recent storm. The groomers had massive wind buff and felt like skiing an early season WROD. So suffice it to say, I stuck to the trees as is my wont.

Despite my fatigue, I couldn’t resist skiing off the backside of Sterling into the Notch. My line choice was suspect given my condition, but I couldn’t resist dropping into a creek bed that I haven’t skied in a few years. The snow was phenomenal and my turns were acceptable if forced. But by the time I got down to 108, I knew I was spent.

It is never good to spend more time driving round trip than skiing. But it is best to call it a day when your turns get sloppy and your energy is lacking. It was a disappointing end to two exceedingly long and difficult weeks. But the worst of my work is done for the winter and I have two weeks of use it or lose it vacation to burn. The season is just getting started as far as I am concerned.


Mansfield from Sterling Summit

March was not quite a complete meltdown (it was no 2011-2012). But given the abnormally low snow base depths, it felt like the end was closer than it should have been (even during a bad year). My frustration with the lack of snow was compounded by unused vouchers. It was a race that I knew I was going to lose big time. I picked Smuggs to burn a voucher due to seeing some ungroomed trails (which I thought might mean spring bumps). Alas, my read of the snow report was not accurate.

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Smuggs: Low Expectations, High Quality Skiing

As with all other ski areas right now, the coverage at Smuggs looked more like early April than early March. Many natural snow trails were closed. Firm hard pack was found on the natural snow trails that were still open. In addition to firm hard pack, many natural snow trails and glades also sported ice flows. Not your typical “icy” conditions but genuine solid blue ice patches.

After a few warm up runs including some groomers followed by a scrapefest down Doc Dempsey’s, we decided to test the trees. Lower elevation trees were scraped, firm, and brushy. I was less than impressed but I had come to Smuggs to ski with some friends rather than to find good conditions. The other guys were interested in dropping off the backside of Sterling but I was quite concerned that we’d find suspect conditions or worse.

I guided our crew into some lower elevation off map woods to test out the tree skiing. We found thin coverage including rocks and stumps to avoid. But we also found some high quality snow and awesome turns. Surprisingly, the off map woods skied better than the limited amount of on map glades that were open. After reading everyone the riot act on how bad things might be, I led a smaller group off the backside expecting to find unpleasant but adventurous skiing.

Instead, we found the best skiing of the day. I picked the line that avoided stream beds and drainages and it worked out. It worked out so well, we opted to return for a second run immediately after the first. The last few hundred feet were thwacky and bitterly thin, ending with a horrendously unforgiving dump out onto 108. But the majority of the skiing was solid packed powder with ample coverage and quality turns.

Yet another day this season during which low expectations led to significant enjoyment.

Smuggs: Exploring

Smuggs from Chilcoot

The snow forecast was a bust with barely an inch of fresh. But the forecast wasn’t for much more and I hadn’t planned on a powder day. Word on the ‘net was that Smuggs was solid packed powder despite not much new snow during the last two weeks. So I did as I do when the snow is packed and the powder has long since been tracked: I go exploring.

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Smuggs: Negative Temps are Better than Lines

Mansfield from Madonna Summit

The past two months have been off the rails at work. I haven’t been able to enjoy the storms of the past month. I haven’t been able to enjoy much of anything. Endless twelve hour days and unrelenting stress culminated with a twelve day work week. I was exhausted physically, mentally, and psychologically.

Going into this weekend, I had given up on the idea of skiing Saturday. I needed rest. I needed to stop. I needed anything other than yet another 5:30am alarm and five hours round trip behind the wheel. But seeing the new snow reports trickling in Friday afternoon, I realized that I needed to not let lingering effects of work stop me from enjoying my passion.

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