Pickhandle Basin

Finally, we got some snow! Not much, but with the season going as it has been, Ryan and I knew we had to take advantage of any opportunity we got. Besides our Rock Mountain trip we have had one other outing to Paradise in Rainier National Park, but that turned into the worst day of skiing we have ever had with a bulletproof, bowling ball surface covering the mountain. We turned around before we even got to the heart of the climb and proceeded to side slip our way down the scary 20 degree ice slope back to our car defeated.

So...we were ready to go this past weekend and get some good turns in. Since we still were't positive about conditions and figured coverage down low would be patchy, we decided to head back to Pickhandle Basin (where we have skied before) and get some laps in. We drove to Crystal Mountain under a clear blue sky, which offered us views we never knew existed. 


The line to the parking lot was long but we got a spot and began to pack our packs. We quickly skinned up the road and were soon trudging through the forest with another skier heading to Pickhandle as well. The going was slow as the skinning involved multiple tree stump navigations and lots of slippery slopes. We soon reached forest with a bit more snow but it was definitely dust on crust. Let's just say...the skinning was better than Rainier but not the best I've ever experienced. There were definitely a few points where I was tired of sliding and chose to posthole up the icier sections. Either way though...we will take what we can get!

Finally, after a lot of trudging we reached the ridge and luckily we still had dust on crust (and not just crust). We converted and got in a few great turns! We hiked up again to ski another round of fresh tracks. Ryan gained the ridge but I decided instead to veer off to the left and avoid the icy section up top. While I don't regret this decision, I definitely could have used a flatter surface to convert on. It took me quite awhile to stabilize my skis. Eventually I was ready and got in a few more fresh turns. Smiles were big.

Although the skiing was decent, we decided it did not warrant another conversion and it was time to ski down. We made our way through the trees and ran into our uphill tracks. There were a few boot packing sections and definitely some butt sliding down the icy bits but we regained the road and finished on Crystal's closed ski run. Minimal coverage but still some great additional turns. We ended the day with a latte and a soda and a wagon ride back to our car. All in all it was a good, mellow day and we got in some great turns.

Last turns after emerging from the backcountry

Ryan skis to the base