Tag Archives: Crystal Mountain

End of the Snowboard Season

7 Apr

We’re well into April now and the winter snow has turned into spring slush. My legs have never been this achey – I spent over an hour and a half foam rolling my quads last week. =( On the plus side the lift lines are short and the snow is soft for me to practice little jumps.

I bought a weekday season pass to Stevens for next year. It costs the equivalent of 4 trips, so not too much of an investment, and it also lets me ride for free for the remainder of the season.

The other thing I splurged on were new bindings which are awesome – they’re Rome Madisons (Madisons? More like Radisons). James and Kyoto mounted them for me.


I tested them out at Crystal a couple of weeks ago with Caroline, and there’s such a difference compared to my old bindings. My heelside turns in particular are way smoother and I feel like I have a lot more control. The only downside is that they’re slightly heavier, but it’s worth it to not spend several minutes before and after (and sometimes during!) a run fiddling with my bindings. With the way my (and Mike’s) bindings fell apart I’m never going to buy anything K2 again.

But anyway, it was great hanging out with Caroline, and pretty cool to see the aftermath of the in-bounds avalanche.

Also last week James and I went to Stevens and he brought his snowboard instead of the skis he’s been on all season. Even though it was a Saturday there were no lift lines and crowds so we got a lot of runs in. It took him maybe 3 runs to get the hang of it again. I think his knees are OK as long as he doesn’t snowboard regularly during the season.

He waved, but was otherwise too cool to look at me. =(

Afterwards we had Ethiopian food at Altaye in Rainier Beach (not actually a beach). I need to eat Ethiopian food more often because man, it is delicious and cheap.
IMG_3520Depending on the snow I might head out one or two more times this season. There’s less urgency now that I can snowboard as much as I want next season (and now that my legs are getting destroyed in a single run).

James Takes a Day Off To Go Skiing!

5 Mar

James took Monday off to come with me to Crystal. =) He skied but said next time there’s a day like that he’ll take his snowboard instead. I think he was a bit frustrated at how often his skis were popping off in the ungroomed snow.

There was lots of fresh snow but it was quite heavy and wet. The mountain was shockingly empty – probably the least busy day I’ve been this season (including Superbowl Sunday). We never had to wait for the lift and hardly saw anyone else on the runs. It’s indescribably better than going on a weekend.

I think my favourite part of the day was an amazing run we did down a near-pristine hill. We had to hike a bit to get out of it since we didn’t know where we were and hadn’t built up enough speed. I thought it was sooo worth it but although James acknowledged the run was fantastic I think he was a bit traumatised by the walk.

Look at that view!

The second best part of the day was when I was on a flat and an enormous flock of birds flew past me. There were so many of them that I spent maybe 10 seconds in the middle of a tiny bird storm. I waited for James, trying to think how I’d describe it, and as he went across the flat the birds flew past again. =D 

I wish I’d taken a photo of it because it was crazy. The only thing better than gliding on the snow surrounded by 100+ birds was seeing it happen to James. It was absolutely one of the highlights of the day.

Afterwards we went to The Cheesecake Factory. I’ve been meaning to go because our friends told us it has giant portions and it seems like such an American experience. Plus it was right outside where the shuttle dropped us off.

We ordered lots of cocktails (post-snowboarding tradition). Here is a blood orange margarita and an Asian pear margarita:

And later on, a dirty martini and chocolate banana liqueur milkshake:

I didn’t really think about it at the time, but the cocktails really drove up the price of the meal. If we ate here again I would definitely not drink so much. But it was so much fun. =) We were laughing the whole meal – or at least I was!

James: (with affectionate disapproval) You are drunk on snowboarding and mild amounts of alcohol.

When our meals arrived I was initially a little disappointed at how un-huge the portions looked. But after snacking on the bread I didn’t actually have a lot of room left over.

I ordered the chicken bellagio (and ate about 1/3, leaving the rest for James to take to work the next day).

James ordered the buffalo burger with a side of onion rings (and ate all of it, the fat fuck).

We also ordered 2 slices of cheesecake because we had a voucher for free cheesecake. I could have sworn I took a picture of them, but apparently I didn’t. James got the Reese’s Pieces one and I got the Oreo cheesecake. James ate about half his and we literally took 2 bites of mine (one each). In all fairness my milkshake was pretty much a dessert in itself.

The bill was $92 before applying free cheesecake vouchers and I think it went down to $70 or so afterwards. Like I said earlier, it would have been normal chain prices if we hadn’t included the cocktails. Our American friends don’t think much of The Cheesecake Factory but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a great time.

You can definitely get better food, better value food, and better value better food elsewhere, but The Cheesecake Factory really hit the spot for a post-snow meal. The service was great (there were heaps of waiters. It looked like there were 2 for every diner – maybe TCF is the Apple store of chain restaurants) and they even managed to find a spot to store James’ skis and my board while we ate. =)

It was an awesome day at Crystal. I hope we can sneak one more weekday trip before the season ends (with James bringing his board instead of skis). But next week we’re off to Hawaii to learn how to surf.

It will be fun to see beaches and sand again, but I think after a week I’ll be ready to come back to the beautiful mountains of the PNW. =)

Snowboarding Update!

24 Feb

After a slow start to the season we had about a week and a half where the mountains were getting bucketed with snow. The down side of course was that the weekends were super busy. It used to be that we could arrive at 10 and still get a spot in summit parking but the past couple of weeks I’ve heard that if you’re not there by 9:30 you have to park in the overflow lots and take the shuttle up. I wouldn’t know – we get there at 8. =P

Aside from the crowds the past week was near-perfect; not too cold, good visibility and amazing snow. This was the line for Hogsback before it started running.

Aside from the long lines it was a great day. We frolicked in the powder, explored some routes through the trees and killed our quads on long, steep (but soft) hills. I’ve been practicing going fast down hills and trying little jumps – the jumps were particularly fun on Sunday because the snow was so forgiving.

I’ve also been going to Crystal on Thursdays while the going is good. On those days I haven’t been pushing myself terrain-wise – I just hang out on the un-groomed blues. At the end of the day I’ve been riding switch on the baby slopes, which I insanely suck at, but need to do since I eventually want to hop little 180s.

This was the bottom of a green run that didn’t get a lot of traffic. Once I got the hang of cruising on top of the heavy powder it was a lot of fun, and I had the area all to myself (so there was nobody around to see the times I got trapped and took several minutes to get back on my feet).

The huge dumps of fresh snow tire my legs out a lot more than normal – like the difference between running on the road and running on sand. My legs were already aching after the first run but it was soooo worth it.

I’m still determined to get James out to Crystal on a weekday. He just finished a 6-month long project where the last 2 months basically had him working past midnight most nights (including weekends). I’m super proud of him because he worked so hard on it and it’s a huge feather in his cap. As soon as the project finished he got really sick for a week, and now it’s stopped snowing in the mountains. =(

We’re off to Maui next month as well, so hopefully there’s some good snow before or after so he can experience the glory (and thigh-burn) of a weekend powder day.

Best Birthday Ever!

22 Mar

Yesterday was my 30th birthday and since James was at work I decided to spend the day snowboarding at Crystal. Afterwards James and I went out to a Greek restaurant (which I’ll make a separate blog post about).

But snowboarding-wise it turned out that I picked pretty much the best day of the season. It was amazing! Powder everywhere. People were calling it knee-deep but when you’re small it’s actually like … chest deep.

It wasn’t sunny but I don’t know if I could have taken a bluebird day – my heart would have just exploded from happiness.

It was busy in the morning (not terrible though – maybe a 5 minute chairlift wait) but once the chairlift accessing the more advanced areas opened up I could ride without seeing a single other person, then get straight back on the lift. Great for getting lots of runs in – not so great for resting my poor tired legs.

This was my view from a chairlift at some point in the afternoon. Nobody on the chairs in front of me and nobody behind me.

Earlier in the day I talked to a woman who had been there the day before and she said the trees had been completely bare. Also normally the tree on the right is covered with bras and mardi gras beads (you can see some bits peeking through). What a weird thing to do – bras are expensive! 

This is what the groomed parts looked like – absolutely nothing like the icy crap it’s been like for the past month. And even a hint of blue sky!

My favourite parts were just off the groomed runs though. Even at the end of the day I was finding areas with only a few tracks. It was amazing (and a little bit eerie) floating silently through the snow with snowflakes falling and nobody else around. I’ve been on empty runs before and I’ve snowboarded in conditions that were nearly as good – but having all that powder to myself was ridiculous and I had a goofy grin on my face the whole day.

The only sad part was that James wasn’t there with me because I know he would have loved it. I won’t rest until he gets to experience weekday powder!

I’m going to be so sad when the snow season is over.

And Now For Something Completely Different: Snowboarding at Crystal

19 Feb

Sorry, I know there have been a lot of snowboarding posts but that’s pretty much how we’ve been spending our weekends. We have some non-snowboarding stuff coming up in the next few months though, like a trip to New York with Julian (April) and Yosemite with Cat and Scott (May). We’ll finally start to explore the US!

But anyway, on Friday we went to Crystal Mountain with Chuck. Chuck hates crowds and only goes skiing on weekdays. He broke his cardinal rule when Stevens got like 34″ of snow earlier this year but afterwards he was like “never again!!!”

I probably shouldn’t have gone because I hurt my back awhile ago deadlifting (it turns out my glutes aren’t activating so I’ve been overusing my back for a long time), and then it got worse last week at Stevens. I decided to go for it on Friday and definitely paid for it afterwards! Funnily enough falling on steep hills didn’t hurt my back at all – it was stuff like sitting on the chairlift and doing up my bindings that really hurt.

Crystal was super fun though! It hadn’t snowed in awhile so the coverage was patchy (at one point James’ board scraped a rock) but it was a beautiful day. Everywhere we looked there were breathtaking views.

The last time we went to Crystal I thought the greens were harder than the greens at Stevens. It turns out that (some of) the blues were harder too, which actually worked out well because we’ve been doing the Stevens blues for awhile now so were ready for a step up.

Chuck took us to do the Green Valley at the start of the day. They were his warm-up before he went on to do blacks and double blacks. You can see him in the yellow going down the run.

I’ve noticed this in a few snowboarding photos, but the camera visually flattens the terrain. In that photo the hill looks like a gentle green but it was actually really steep. I remember getting off the lift, looking down and thinking “you’re shitting me.” (Is that a phrase in the US? I’m not sure. In Australia it’s a more emphatic way of saying “you’re kidding me.”)

Luckily we’d done a short black at Stevens that was about this steep so I knew that I could turn on it, but damn.

This is me about 3/4 down the hill looking up. Not looking so flat now, is it?

Chuck took James on a slightly steeper run but I decided to keep doing Green Valley to work on my dynamic turns. It’s very exciting to have goals that beyond “don’t fall”. I also need to get more confident straight lining it or I’ll always be the slowest. That’s something James is much better than me at – I get nervous going straight because I don’t like going fast.

Sitting down for lunch was actually when my back really started protesting. Afterwards I couldn’t bend over so James had strap and unstrap my bindings – I must have looked like a real diva. “Now remove the toe strap, peasant.”

That evening I could hardly move and it was even worse on Saturday! It took me several minutes to get in and out of bed and James kept fetching things for me and giving me worried looks. 

I went to the physio yesterday – he said now he thinks I have a bulged disc. He worked on my back, taped me up and gave me some exercises to do (I’m no longer allowed to do the previous exercises he assigned me). I also have to suck in my stomach whenever I move because that puts less strain on the spine. Magic! He laughed when I asked about my chances of snowboarding this weekend. He said he’s not worried about the actual snowboarding (which he is actually somewhat approving of because my core is engaged); it’s the drive up and the sitting on chairlifts that he doesn’t want me to do. Eventually he said 50/50. =D

Yesterday I thought that was super optimistic but today now that I’m all taped up and my back muscles are no longer spasming I feel amazing.

Stevens Pass I am coming for you on Sunday. I am going to slide on your face!