Friday, March 20, 2009

Full Moon Skiing March 10-11

Once or twice each winter the full moon lines up with clear, cold conditions in the Pacific Northwest, so we took the unusual opportunity to make some powder turns while the rest of the world was sleeping.

It felt like we were going skiing in reverse. At a leisurely 4:30pm my roommate Ben and I packed up the car and left Bellingham for the Mount Baker backcountry. Passing all the other cars coming down the highway in the opposite direction, we arrived at the almost empty parking lot just as the sun was turning the Canadian border peaks pink.

We made the short approach to our camp where our friends had already dug an enormous snow cave. We dug a bit more out and made room for all five of us, then started on dinner.

Around 10:00pm the moon rose and the scenery went from dark to a surprisingly bright wintery lunar glow. Headlamps were turned off and we packed our gear for the hike up Table Mountain.

After an hour or so of skinning up to the 5300 foot level, we ripped our skins off and headed down the fresh powder. There was hooting and hollering piercing the otherwise bitter cold silence. After the first run we were so amped up, we all decided to make another run. By the time we got to our highpoint again I looked at my watch . . . 1:00am. It was so surreal to be there at that time of night. I asked around to see what time people thought it was and the estimates ranged from 11:00pm to 3:00am.

We finished our final powder run and made it back to our snowcave at 2:00am. After everyone piled into the cave, I decided to sleep outside. Poor choice when the temps were in the single digits. After a cold night, we awoke the next morning to skiers heading out for the day. We got a late start and went out for another tour, this time by the light of the sun.

It might not happen again until next winter that we get these conditions, but I'll be on the lookout for when the planets and weather align once again for the moonlight ski session.

- Andy Bourne, AAI Guide

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