backTurns All Year year-round skiing                

Year-round skier:  Charles Eldridge




How I got started skiing year-round:  I think the seed was planted about 10 years ago by reading an article in a skiing magazine while waiting at the doctor's office; the article described getting in August's turns in Colorado by means of a very long hike to a very short (200vf) run. I wasn't exactly inspired by the story, but the idea must have taken root deep in my brain. I actually got started on the consecutive months idea in the summer of 1997, with the big '96-'97 snowpack, as I realized while skiing great snow, in just-opened areas of Mt. Rainier in August, that September might be the only difficult month. I was really suckered into the idea when mid-September brought big snows to the Muir snowfield, and I found fantastic skiing in great weather all the way down to Pebble Creek in September and October.
Criteria for what counts as a ski trip:  It counts if I consider it a good ski trip. For me this usually means lots of skiing, be it a boot-up, one run trip or a long tour-with-turns on waxless skis. I think, though, that I have managed at least 1000vf of turning on every trip, and often a lot more, even in the summer. I only count backcountry skiing, though, so a day of riding the lifts doesn't count.
Biggest threat to my streak:  Two of them. First, I was waiting for new snow to fall on the Muir Snowfield in October of 1998 when I got an especially bad case of the flu. I ended up going up to Camp Muir late in the month, popping asprin and decongestant, wondering if my body could handle it. I actually perked up some after resting at Camp Muir, and had a decent run back down. The second was this past spring when I broke a rib skiing in early April. I figured my streak was done for, but by mid-May I was skiing, extra cautiously, again.
Type of equipment I use:  Telemark, as lightweight as I can get away with. I most often use wide Karhu waxless skis, three-pin bindings, and T3s, but sometimes take my (old) Tuas when the trip will involve just one or two long runs. In the summer and fall, if I am not on waxless skis, I almost always boot-up rather than use skins.
Strategy for skiing through the low season:  If there is a snow-free trail approach but I want to ski with my T3s (my heaviest boots), I hike in wearing the T3s, but hike out wearing sandals (Tevas) I have carried in. When the trail hike to the snow starts to become long, I become more inclined to take my very lightweight leather tele boots and skinny XCD skis. The south side of Rainier is usually where I go in the leanest part of the year.
Worst and best backcountry ski trips:  The worst was a 6-day trip in June to the Grand Park-Burroughs Mountain area on the north side of Mt. Rainier. It was a basecamp type of trip, and we got only got one day of no precipitation in which to explore. We mostly sat on our snow bench, under the blue tarp which we had cleverly brought, and ate, read, and watched the previously ample snowpack shrink by many, many feet. We got ourselves soaked on the second day skiing in snow changing to rain, and it took a long time to dry out just sitting under the tarp doing nothing.
  The best - my favorite - has been the long tour to Third Burroughs Mountain from Sunrise before the road opens, while there is still continuous snow the entire way. It is a long trip, so there is a lot of every kind of skiing I like - navigation through the woods, pure XC across meadows, long glides down, and turning runs.
Skiing activities in the past year:  photo galleries





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