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Skiing in the Alpental Valley

February 2, 2003

My friend Larry invited me to join him on a ski tour into the Chair Peak basin to scout out the NE Buttress and North Face. I was really looking forward to doing some backcountry skiing with Larry this winter since he is a wizened veteran of the back country, and I am just getting started with this great form of skiing!

We started out from the upper parking lot at Alpental at 8:15am and found ourselves at Source Lake around 9. We had to stop a couple times to adjust clothing layers, and for me to put my skins on. I thought I could skate without them, but the incline was a bit too steep for my budding skills! It was soooo much easier once I had the skins on. Like night and day! As we skied past the familiar waterfall we were amazed to see it gushing with water. Just three weeks ago there had been substantial ice there! The recent warm weather was wreaking havoc on the local ice.

As we approached Source Lake we could see avalanche debris below some cliffs, and the slope we were skinning up was definitely capable of producing an avalanche, so we stopped and pulled out the shovels to dig some snow pits to take a closer look. We found two obvious weak layers: the first was about four inches down, and the second was about eight inches down. We did a Rutschblock test, and found that the second layer slid on the third bounce. Some other skiers above us were doing the same thing, and their Rutschblock test slid on the second bounce. Above us the slope narrowed into a gully, which we identified as a possible terrain trap so we decided to turn around and search for more stable areas to ski. Lucky for us, steep, stable terrain was just a mile away at the Alpental Ski area!

So we spent the rest of the day making laps on International and schussing the lower slopes! Thanks for a great day skiing, Larry!