Tag Archives: Stevens Pass

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).

So Cold!

8 Dec

The past few days have been soooo cold! Highs of 0C and lows of -6C. Brrr! Our apartment is really well insulated, so although we’re wearing hoodies we haven’t turned on the heat. And poor Mouse is coping in his usual way.

Our friends who have been here a few years longer than us say it’s the coldest they’ve experienced in Seattle. It’s so cold that fountains are freezing over and people have been playing ice hockey on Lake Washington.

And because we’re a bunch of idiots and apparently -6C wasn’t cold enough, we were like “let’s go snowboarding!”.

When we were in the carpark one guy was like “dude my nose hairs are freezing!” and I laughed but James told me later that he was thinking “how did he know?!” So yeah, James discovered frozen nose hairs are a thing at -11C.

We wore three layers on our torso and legs, two layers of gloves with heat packs inside our gloves (“the heat packs! They do nothing!”) and also wore facemasks, which were all frozen at the end of the day. On the plus side it was gorgeous.

photo taken by Chi Kai

Poor Chi Kai actually took his hands out of his gloves to take that photo. He had regrets.

To save his knees James skied – his first time in 10 years. He found it really disconcerting not being able to look back up the hill to see if anyone was there, and he hated hearing people behind him, not knowing if/when they were going to pass. He said I zoomed by him a couple of times and freaked him out.

Me: Is it because I was too close?
James: It’s because you were too speedy!

Which really pleased me because I was trying to go faster than normal to get out of my comfort zone. I fell a lot more than usual but less than I was expecting! I’m really keen to demo a stiffer board to see if that changes how confident I feel going fast.

The guys called it a day around 3:30pm, which was a pity because the last half hour was the best! Hardly anyone was still on the mountain and (other) James and I could get straight on the lifts.

Normally the snow melts off my board on the way home but it was so cold that it remained intact. So that night Mouse had his first encounter with snow.

Do you know what is soooo satisfying? Soaking in a hot bath after a long day of snowboarding.

Today it was -1C for most of the day and James and I recovered by doing hot yoga at a class that Madeleine was teaching. She said it was so cold outside that the room wasn’t as hot as she wanted even though she had the heat at full blast. It felt plenty hot to me though – I was dripping the whole time!

I thought it was really interesting – some poses were a lot easier in the heat and I felt all rosy afterwards. James didn’t like the sweatiness and how full the class was – he said he accidentally kicked the girl behind him a couple of times.

Then we tried a bunch of McDonald’s burgers that we don’t have in Australia (McRib, Southern Chicken and some bacon jalapeno one) and napped for the rest of the afternoon. Well, I napped – I think James played computer games.

Also I found some photos from last week when we went to Stevens but it was raining so we aborted and headed over the pass to Leavenworth instead. James and AJ were excited by the icicles hanging by the side of the road and made Mike stop the car so they could pose lightsaber style.

The whole time they were like “OMG our hands are freezing!” but the idiots kept holding onto the icicles while I took photos. =D

Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed tourist town. There are lots of German restaurants (including one that serves schweinshaxe that we all kind of want to try). I don’t know if if it’s normal or because it’s this time of year, but they have Christmas lights everywhere:

And a Christmas market! It was very empty and depressing when we were there, but maybe the not-so-great weather made everyone stay home.

Even the petrol station was done up Bavarian-style.

And weirdly enough there was an Australian themed store in the middle of it all.

They had $10 vegemite, a cool mug that had “The Outback. Leavenworth, WA” (and an outline of a kangaroo) that I kind of regret not buying, didgeridoos, and random non-Australian things like crafts and Bigfoot-related memorabilia.

Then we headed home, helped Mike install his snowboard wall mount and chillaxed for the rest of the day.

I think a plus side of this cold weather is that it feels quite Christmassy. Actually I’m a little torn on that because it feels like how I always imagined Christmas should feel (still waiting on that Seattle snow though) but all my memories of Christmas are like .. 30C+ weather with Chinese food (my family) and smoked salmon and BBQs (James’ family). The other day James caught me listening to Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun and having a bit of a homesick sniffle.

Still, this year there is talk of maybe doing Christmas at Whistler, so that could be pretty cool. And our plan is to go back for Christmas next year so there will be plenty of time to hang out with friends/family and get sunburned. =D

It’s the Moooost Wonderfuul Tiiiime of the Yeeeaaar!

25 Nov

Snow season!!

It starts at 6am like this:

And a few hours later we’re doing this!

He’s hard to see, but on the far right is Mike majestically contemplating the view. Also that orange dot is actually someone’s bright helmet. If I could re-do my gear purchases I would totally get a neon helmet to make myself more visible.

It was so beautiful this weekend! The snow was still a bit patchy in areas but it was actually pretty cool seeing the tops of trees underneath us. Also since the snow hadn’t built up at the base yet the sensors for the chairlifts were placed too high for our passes to scan – the guys had to put them in their chest pockets and I had to put mine in my glove and lift my arm.

We’ve been twice since Stevens opened. Last week was pretty disheartening – I went from tentatively trying blacks last season to falling on a green! This week was a lot better, though I think I’m at about 70% of where I was last year. I did a couple of baby jumps (maybe 2 fingers of clearance between my board and the snow lol) and ventured into the half pipe.

James is having a lot of problems with his knee so next week he’ll switch back to skiing to see if that helps. Also I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose my right toenail again this season. I took some awesome progress photos of my nail blackening then falling off and the pretty new nail that regrew in its place but whenever I showed them to James he would flinch so I deleted them. =(

But anyway, here are James and Eliot at the top of Hog Heaven. 

James replaced his old orange jacket with a new grey one from Burton. It helps mitigate the ugliness of his pants but also makes it harder to identify him, cos his pants kind of blur into a khaki green from a distance (James: because of my speed)

Afterwards we all went to a place called Bubba’s Road House for dinner. OMG soooo much tastyfood. My plate had tri tips, ribs, sausage, potato salad, coleslaw and a corn muffin for just $15. I didn’t get a photo of it but as soon as my massive plate arrived I knew I couldn’t finish it all and started prioritising the stuff that wouldn’t re-heat well. So James’ lunch today is basically a big stack of meat.

Also I found this on the menu!

I initially lol’d at the Ching & Chong platter, but after a second viewing eeeew at the dumplings with sweet chili and teriyaki sauce. Why would anyone order Asian food at a BBQ place?

Apparently they have 10% off with a Stevens Pass lift ticket, which we didn’t know about but hopefully can use in the future! $15 + tip for dinner and lunch the next day is nothing to be sneezed at.

Post-snowboarding meals are such a perfect way to end the day. Madeleine said that you can never have a non-snowboarding meal at those restaurants – she said that she ruined a couple of post-surfing restaurants for herself because she went on a normal day and realised the food only tasted so good because she was hungry and exhausted. I suspect that is probably excellent advice.

There are already rumblings about going again next Sunday. I can’t wait! I hope my toenail holds out because I am so hungry for improvement this year.

A Traditional Chinese New Year (We Snowboarded and Ate Mexican Food)

11 Feb

Back in Melbourne James and I used to spend CNY with my extended family – we would play mahjong and then go out for an overpriced Chinese banquet (which Howie says is a rookie mistake – his family used to own a Chinese restaurant and he says it’s the worst day of the year to go).

We were invited to a CNY celebration in the International District but already had plans to go snowboarding that day.

Here are Mike and James on the back side of Stevens Pass. You have to take a few chairlifts to get there but it’s less crowded than the front side and the blues are steeper and longer. After doing the blues on the back side all morning, James and I summoned enough courage to try a couple of short blacks on the front side. One of them was easier than the blues and the other was terrifying to look down (I’ll get a photo next time) but once I realised that I could point my board down and not die, it was fun!

We have plans to go to Crystal this Friday with Chuck and Caroline, and hopefully again on Saturday with our regular snowboarding group to a yet-to-be-determined mountain. Easy access to the snow is one of the best things about living in Seattle.

Oh that reminds me, you know how in Australia we say “going to the snow”? That’s not a phrase here. Apparently it sounds weird to them, like saying “I’m going to the road”. 

James also informed me that Americans also don’t say “keen on” to mean “interested in”, as in “I’m quite keen on fishing this weekend”. He said there were some new guys at work who didn’t understand some of his phrases and it turns out his colleagues have just been pretending to understand him because they were all like “yeah actually we have no idea what you’re saying either”. Poor James; he thought he was communicating but all this time people have just been nodding and smiling.

But anyway, after our day of snowboarding we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant called La Palmera. It was located in what seemed to be an office building, which was weird, but once you got inside it was like any other restaurant.

Do you know what I love about Mexican restaurants? Free chips and salsa! On the menu they said that they would charge for refills but they automatically refilled our chips while we waited and didn’t charge us.

James and I both ordered the jumbo margaritas.  They were so full that I had trouble lifting them with one hand when we toasted to the (Chinese) new year. But aside from their hugeness the margaritas weren’t anything special.

The food portions were pretty big – although maybe they only seemed big because I was already stuffed full of chips. I ordered a carnitas burrito. Again it wasn’t anything to write home about. It was enormous though, so I got about 2/3 of the way through before I was stuffed.

James got tacos al carbon. You can see his napkin in the back to get a sense of how big the plate was.

James finished his margarita pretty quickly and ordered what I think was called a coronita (a corona margarita). Yes it looks exactly how you would imagine.

He said it was absolutely foul; the only OK part was the beginning which was mainly margarita and as the corona gradually mixed in it got gross. He was glad he tried it though, cos he said that he would have always wondered.

Because of all the booze the meal ended up being really expensive! After tip it was something like $75 for the two of us, which is one of the most expensive meals we’ve had since we got here, and massively expensive for Mexican food. There are heaps of other Mexican restaurants where I’ve been really happy with the food for half the price. So we ended up paying heaps for a fairly average meal. Boo!

But at least we were full (stuffed, even) and the food came out fast. My cousins told me that for their CNY meal they didn’t order enough (6 banquet meals plus 2 dishes for a 10 person table – noobs!) and it took awhile to arrive so everyone was still hungry afterwards. Plus they paid more (and didn’t get alcohol) so I guess all in all we made out alright.

Our Snowboards Have Arrived!

23 Dec

This year James and I bought each other snowboard stuff for Christmas. =) We were sick of losing 30-60 minutes at the start of the day getting our rentals and figured that there wouldn’t be much price difference between buying and renting for a season anyway. We started off by going 3 times in 8 days and our gear arrived in time for snowboarding today. Our friends have invited us on a January trip to Whistler which we’ll consider depending on how much we improve between now and then!

James took this photo of me just as I got to the bottom of one of the greens.

There was a guy roughly my size wearing the same shade of orange pants who also had a black jacket and James said he kept getting us confused until he realised that the guy was going really fast. I wonder if that guy’s friends saw me and was like “man, Gavin has gotten real shit”.

When it’s time to replace my helmet I’ll try to get one that’s bright turquoise or lime green so I’m even easier to spot. The worst is when people dress head to toe in white – why?? Why would you deliberately blend in with the snow? If you crashed people would probably accidentally run over you! =(

James thinks his pants make it easy for me to find him. This is actually not true. From a distance his pants kind of look like they’re brown or olive which is a pretty common colour. It’s only once you’re up close that you can appreciate their true glory.

You can kind of see his new board (better in the next photo though) and his fancy Flow bindings – he got quick entry ones like Chi Kai because everyone is jealous of how quickly Chi Kai straps in. You can also see his new boots. He wears a size 11 shoe but a size 9.5 snowboard boot. He said that the first day he wore them they were really painful but today they felt great. I wear a size 5-5.5 shoe and a size snowboard boot. I couldn’t tough out the pain and had to get them heat molded to accelerate the breaking in process.

James and I stuck to the greens for most of the day but at the end our friends talked us into a couple of blue runs – one was an easy blue and one was a regular blue. The easy blue was doable (we did a couple of brave linked turns but mainly falling leafed our way down the steeper parts) but the regular blue run had just too many steep hills for me to be comfortable.

We’re at the top of the regular blue run here. This photo was taken right after some guy sat on Mike’s head and crunched his neck badly (Mike was sitting on the ground and the guy was skiing backwards). You can see poor Mike smiling through the pain.

He had a heat pack on it for part of the ride home and also took an ibuprofen. I bet it’s going to hurt like a bitch tomorrow. =(

We stuck around until the lifts closed and it was soooo good. Everyone seems to leave around 3-3:30 so for the final half hour Stevens was really empty. On our final run James and I hardly saw anyone else on the blue part of the run and we were the only ones on the green part. It was amazing – like we had our own private mountain! I didn’t need to worry about avoiding anyone and just focused on linking my turns and not falling!

And since Klene asked for it here is a photo of me and my new stuff. It was taken around 4pm when it was already starting to get dark.

My snowboard is the Never Summer Pandora (retail: $400, paid: $270). It’s 146cm and actually intended as a park board but because it’s soft and narrow it’s easier to turn with my small feet. I don’t really love the topsheet (though the rainbow is growing on me) but it’s covered in snow half the time anyway.

Also James and I agree that it was well worth getting the helmets. Today was the first day that I had a bad fall – I caught my heel edge, went flying backwards and landed with all the impact on the back of my head. The snow was all hard and packed down in that spot and there was a moment of “whoa that could have been really bad” before I dusted myself off and continued falling down the mountain. James has been similarly saved but his worst fall was when he landed on his coccyx and said he could feel it all the way up his spine.

So anyway, that was our fourth day snowboarding. It took several runs to get used to our new boards (they seem faster and a lot more sensitive?) but I’m really glad we have them!

Our First Time Snowboarding!

9 Dec

Man I am exhausted. We had a huge weekend – on Saturday Chuck picked us up at 6:45am so we could get to Stevens Pass around 9am. Or that was supposed to be the plan – but because it was opening weekend and also because there had been like 30″ of snow there was a traffic jam going up the mountain and we only got there 2 hours later than expected. At least it was nice and scenic – I was freaking out over how pretty the snow was. I found out later from Mike that in his car AJ (another Aussie) was also going nuts and taking photos out the window.

We were directed into one of the overflow parking lots and had to wait in a long line for the shuttle bus.

The shuttle was really slow because it could only take a limited number of people and was also getting stuck in the traffic jam. One guy had a pickup truck and was piling 15 people at a time into the back and ferrying them up the mountain.

So it was a bit of an ordeal actually getting there. But OMG the snow was incredible. It looked solid but if you barely poked it with your finger it would disintegrate. Check out how powdery it was – and this was just the garbage snow near all the buildings.

(The snow only got into my pants because I’d forgotten to zip my jacket and pants together yet – more on that later!)

James and I did a snowboard class with some friends (Stevens Pass has a really great deal – $159 for 3 days of lessons, lift tickets and rentals) and then we went to try out the green run.

It was bloody terrifying. Well OK not as terrifying as the black run that I saw from a distance – that thing was near vertical! But I had always imagined that a green run would be mostly flat and it wasn’t.

Also the chairlift didn’t have a safety bar. It fit 3 people – I would not want to be the person in the middle. And then when we were about to land we realised that we had no idea how to get off the chairlift. So we tried to imitate the guys in front of us (who were of no use because they all fell over).

The instructor said that to force myself to turn I should reach one hand over to touch my opposite shoulder, which came in very handy except I kept forgetting which shoulder made me turn in which direction.

Although I was really intimidated by the green run I was glad we did it because it gave me an opportunity to put what I had learned into practice. James and I stacked a massive number of times but it was all part of the learning! There were definitely a couple of tumbles that could have been nasty if they hadn’t been into a cloud of snow.

A lot of the stuff I learned was very unintuitive (like keeping my weight off my back foot!) but I think I have an idea of how it works and feel that if I go another couple of times everything will make more sense.

Caroline said that she saw a girl wearing the same colours as me being all pro and was like “wow Kaye is a really fast learner!” If only.

James and I both had trouble controlling our speed, and because of the fluffy powder we developed a terrible habit of flinging ourselves into the snow to stop when we started going too fast. Since we stacked so many times (and I also got trapped in powder more than once) a 5-10 minute run turned into maybe 30 minutes. Luckily we had these sorts of views to entertain us.

I didn’t want to waste time going to the bathroom at Stevens (plus it’s awkward going into the stall in my bulky snow gear, unzipping my pants and jacket from each other and peeling my compression bottoms off) so I deliberately didn’t hydrate as much as I should have. Also because my compression gear was so good at wicking sweat away I never really felt like I was sweating. James had the same strategy and we both had huge dehydration headaches today.

James and I both brought fleece midlayers but ditched them at the start of the day because it wasn’t that cold – we were both very warm in just our base layers and shells. James told me that he was really jealous of my Ziptech jacket and pants because his jacket kept riding up when he fell over. And later on Elisha showed me how her back was all red from the snow that went up her top. So I am hugely pleased with my pants and jacket (both Volcom goretex from last season at around 60% off online) I hadn’t thought about my clothes all day, which obviously meant that they were doing their job.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed snowboarding given that I hated skiing (the boots hurt and I kept crossing my stupidly long skis). I’m itching to buy my own gear so that I don’t waste half an hour at the start of the day getting rental stuff. Ideally it would be better to wait until March for the sales but maybe it’s worth it buying at full price if I save a season’s worth of rental fees? We’ll see.

The guys are planning on going next weekend and I am super eager to try again!