MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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December 31, 2014

Early-Season Skiing Found with Yukon Trading Company Avalanche Course

You know those times we all live for? Like hanging out with friends in the mountains... Well that’s one of my favorite parts about this time of year. For the past three years I’ve had the privilege of leading a private avalanche course for our friends at Yukon Trading Company. What a great company! I mean come on - they pay for avalanche education for their employees and it’s on the clock! So, when Ryan from YTC called me in November to set up this year’s course, I was excited.

The YTC gang: all smiles, and lots of color. Did I mention YTC reps Marmot outdoor gear among other great companies. Well this just means these folks are always dressed to impress. Dallas Glass photo

The early season here in the Cascades has left much to be desired as far as snowpack goes. While ski areas struggle to open their doors for the holiday season, even the backcountry enthusiasts are becoming frustrated. But when all else fails in WA, folks in the know head to one place: Mt Rainier. With the highest year-round trailhead in the Washington Cascades, if anywhere has snow it's Mt Rainier. And that’s precisely where we went.

Ready to go skiing? These folks are. All packed up to head to the snow. Dallas Glass photo

 Ryan secured a house for all of us in the sleepy mountain town of Ashford, WA, which is nestled at the base of Mt Rainier and only a few miles from the park’s entrance. This would be our base of operations for our three days together. After breakfast each morning, the dining table would be converted into our classroom for a quick lesson and tour planning session. Then we’d head to Paradise at 5460’ on Mt Rainier’s south side to spend most of our day learning in the snow. 

An AIARE Level 1 avalanche course is intended to prepare students to be competent members of a touring group with the support of a local avalanche forecast center. So, we spent our field time learning skills such as companion rescue, field observations, group decision making, and verifying the avalanche forecast. But we can’t forget why we take avalanche courses… we love to play in the mountains. For this group that meant skiing and riding. 

Making snow observations while we skin up Edith Creek Basin. Using the simple tools we have in our hands is often the best way to make snow observations. Dallas Glass photo

As I mentioned this season has been meager here in the Cascades, and many of my friends have done nothing but complain about the lack of snow. Well that’s because they are in Seattle and not on Rainier! While not the greatest turns of my life, the group planned for and found wonderful skiing on Rainier’s south side. Don’t believe me….that’s fine. Stay inside and complain. That just means more for us. 

Reaping the rewards of great tour planning. For those thinking the skiing isn’t any good, just go ahead and assume this is Photoshopped and we’ll keep skiing. Dallas Glass photo

Special Thanks to Ryan and the great folks at Yukon Trading Company!

~MM Guide Dallas Glass

Tags: avalanche, avy