Some outdoor sounds are intrinsically pleasing: a stream dancing over rocks, wind rustling the leaves. Edward O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis provides an explanation for why we like these sounds. But our interaction with the outdoors also produces some satisfying sounds: the crunch of a boot in solid snow, a carabiner’s “click” in a difficult placement. One of the best human-made sounds in the outdoors, however, is the swoosh of a ski on snow in prime condition.
Rob and I were the only ones willing to get up early for this year’s final ski to Trinity (although two others came later). We drove up to the Fish Lake sno-park at 5:45 a.m. and saw that, as promised, Ike had groomed the route – this weekend marked the last grooming of the year. The temperature was 27 degrees when we started skiing at 6:00 am, and the virgin corduroy had set up icy and fast. Stars sprinkled overhead and a crescent moon hung like a stage prop to the south. We headed north, however, toward Casseopeia, to the steady swoosh… swoosh… of skis gliding perfectly.
I was in Europe last month where the World Cup ski races were in the news. The nordic races got a lot of air time, with television repeatedly showing the men’s 50 km race in which a Norwegian (who else?) pulled away from a tight field to take the gold. I have always thought that nordic skiing was not terribly popular in Washington state because it is too difficult – too difficult to get to good areas and too difficult to do. A few weeks ago the Seattle Times even quoted someone as saying that, “nordic skiing is generally viewed as the most challenging of all Olympic sports.” Whether or not that is true, skiing is a workout.
Sometimes, however, when the snow is just right, it is not too much of a workout. Yesterday was like that. We stopped to gaze at morning sunlight creeping into the Chiwawa valley, snapped photos, and listen to Rock Creek.
We still got to Trinity at 8:22 a.m. Last year I posted a TR about skiing to Trinity under snowy skies. This time it was blue sky all around:
Greg, the caretaker at Trinity, says that it is 23.2 miles to Trinity. (Or 23.6 - I forget. Either way, that is a little more than what I had thought.) So, even with a few gawking and nibbling stops, we averaged about 10 mph.
After nearly an hour of drinking Greg’s coffee and soaking up his hospitality, we slapped on the skis and headed back down the valley. On the way back we did not have to reserve energy, and we had a net loss of elevation, so the skis swooshed along even faster. We returned to the car at 11:28 am, for an average speed, with stops, of 10.9 mph on the return. I estimate that, net of stops, we skied maybe 4 hours for the day, averaging nearly 12 mph while skiing. This is cheating, I know, because the stops helped us refuel and rest. But that provides a rough idea of the speed of movement that good snow affords. I can keep going, but I am not a fast skier, so this is not about how fast my particular skiing was – rather, the conditions were just that good. Maybe one reason that the swoosh of skis on good snow is such a pleasing sound is that it is sheer fun.
Distance: 46.4 miles round trip
Elevation gain: Net gain 1200 feet to Trinity, ~ 2000 feet with ups and downs
Time: Car-to-car 5.5 hours, including 1 hr in Trinity
Mode: Skate skis on groomed snowmobile trails (as usual this year, no snowmobiles until about 11 am)
Right on, that's a jaunt! I see from the photos that you guys are wearing fancy lightweight skis. How much would a pair of AT skis slow you down while skating? I'm just curious how much of a difference your skis make.
Tom, those are skate skis. AT gear would be too clunky to enjoy on these trails - unless you use these trails to access the backcountry. Some people ski these areas with normal ("classic") cross-country touring skis. But the groomed snowmobile trails are best suited for skate skis. As I point out here, the State of Washington has a $3.6 million budget for snowmobile grooming, but only $188,000 for x-country ski areas. So it is nice to be able to enjoy some of the more extensive grooming and longer distances of the snowmobile routes.
Iron, at some sno-park areas, including Fish Lake, you can ski until about 11 am without seeing any snowmobiles, especially during the week. Even though it was a Saturday, we did not see any until about 11. But the trail is wide and most snowmobilers are friendly. It's like riding your bicycle on a road on which only a few cars show up - and always later in the day.
Greg, the caretaker at Trinity, posted about our visit here. He calls his blog "Paradise Found."
Nice, the mountain views and pristine backcountry were probably sweet. My wife started xc skiing this year, I may have to jump in next year. I thought you might have snagged the Justus route up Buck while you were there.
-------------- I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent_Gandhi
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