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Skiing and Snowboarding on the Muir Snowfield

Paradise, Mt Rainier National Park

October 2011

Andy, Jacob, and I had Friday off from work, so we drove down to Paradise at Mt Rainier National Park to stretch our legs in search of some nice turns! Paradise is usually the best bet to find early season snow for skiing and snowboarding.

We were a mixed bag of backcountry-enthusiasts today with Andy telemark skiing, Jacob split-boarding, and me on my randonee gear. Last season I tried to telemark as often as I could but since I picked up my Dynafit skis and bindings last spring I haven't used my tele skis at all.

The weather was cloudy and overcast as we arrived at the Paradise parking lot. We had hoped for more snow on the ground but as it turned out we were able to hike almost all the way up to Glacier Vista before we reached snow on the trail. While this made for easy hiking in our approach shoes, it also meant we wouldn't be skiing back down to the parking lot....

We stopped by some rocks to take a break and get a bite to eat and were unexpectedly joined by a bold chipmunk! He was scurrying all around us looking for handouts and even jumped on Jacob's back, thinking it was a rock.

The wind had picked up a lot as we got closer to Camp Muir. Fortunately we were able to go inside the public hut and warm up as we ate some food and rehydrated. The side door had been left partially open allowing snow to drift in so we took a few minutes and shoveled out the snow and ice so it would close.

The first few turns down the snowfield were not exactly a paragon of grace as I fell over while almost stopped. With the limited visibility, we could barely tell if we were going up or down. This lasted for about a thousand feet until we could ski closer to rocks which helped with the depth perception.

With the help of Andy'y GPS, we were able to more or less follow our skin tracks down to Pebble Creek. Here the visibility improved and the snow depth was enough to make a few nice linked turns. We took off our boards as we hiked down to Glacier Vista where we were able to make a few more turns before hiking out. I had my first binding ejection as I took a little jump off a lip. The boot must not have been fully in the binding because I barely hit and the ski popped off. Oh well, nothing hurt but my pride!

About a mile from the parking lot we put our boards on our packs, Andy and I put our shoes on and hiked down the trail to the car. Sorry guys, I had hoped that by continuing up to Muir we would climb above the clouds and get to some time!

Well, you know what they say? "It doesn't have to be fun, to be fun!" Thanks guys for a character building day in the mountains!