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Pilchuck bike/hike/ski solid type 2 fun

WA Cascades West Slopes Central
Posted by artfreeman on 5/24/24 4:49pm

I try to ski Pilchuck every year and had missed it last season.  I knew the gate was closed and there would be some missing snow, but went anyway.  As Jim mentioned in his recent report there was some dirt and swamp walking for about a half hour to continuous snow, so not ideal, but tolerable.  And this after I used my secret backcountry ski weapon, an electric bike, to get up the long steep road.  The road is fixed nice and smooth now, but sections have nasty loose gravel making it harder than normal to bike.  I had to walk in a few spots on the way up.  

The snow was unconsolidated mush, but still fairly easy to turn in, and there was no pollen for a change.  I skied the "Gunsight" after ski-cutting the top left, which send a three-inch river of wet snow hissing all the way down for several minutes.  Then I could snake turns down that narrow slide path.  On Larrison Ridge the coverage was good, but caution is advised.  There are many cliffs and cracks.  As they say in the ski areas, unmarked hazards may exist.  I stayed far right, which is generally the safest bet.  The photos show the view down the gnar and the lookinging over at the up-route from the N ridge. Note the thin coverage on the ramp out.  I'm not going to try to convince you it was worth it, but days later I reflect on it as good solid type-two fun.

Today I call the Verlot Visitors Center and talked to a very friendly woman.  I gave her my report and wondered why the road was closed when there is no snow anywhere near it.  The lack of snow seemed to be a surprise.  She told be something about how the new gravel has to settle.  Okay.  I think these days anyone wanting to ski Pilchuck had better plan on biking.  She and I also talked about the old ski area, where I skied once as a kid, since she said she worked there in the lodge and her husband ran lifts, another family member the snow plow!  It was fun to hear about from someone who so familiar with it.  She mentioned lack of reliable snow as being a big factor in its demise.  Crazy that they had a chair that went below the parking lot.  The main lift had a mid-station and above that the Terraine was "experts only."


The Gnar


Looking down the Gunsight

From Larrison


Looking across at up route

Pilchuck in 1968


Ira Spring photo in book Northwest Ski Trails, The Mountaineers, 1968

Thanks for the report. I have been told that I skied the Pilchuck area with my dad as a youngin. Can't claim to remember it. It's been long enough since I toured up there that I can barely remember. I don't have an ebike, but I might just pedal up there (when there is proper corn) to refresh my memory.


From '100 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes in Washington' by Rainier Burgdorfer, 1999 édition.



There are a group of us organizing to get the road opened as a sno-park in winter. Stay tuned for when you can lend a letter of support to the usfs. It is a great location and would be nice to be able to drive up to the old lot in all seasons

I appreciate your report!

Good luck with the campaign Kam, I'm in, but don't hold out much hope.

Over the years I've contacted the head ranger of the district many times, and tried to get others to e-mail. One year they actually opened the Heather Lake gate once the snow melted to the upper gate, which remained closed. This was a perfect compromise, giving us easy access when there was still lots of snow, but was never repeated. I'm afraid that road/mountain is a magnet for nit-wits and miscreants who have repeatedly broken the gates (why they pile boulders now) and gotten vehicals stuck and abandoned. The USFS has decided those costs out weigh the benifits for a few BC skiers 😠

The biggest potential user group would be for snow play, actually. People in the area have very few options beyond driving to Hwy 2 or even 90. That has the potential to serve a lot of people that don't have an easy way to get to the snow. The usfs is interested in more access like that, with the side benefit that ski tourists, snowshoers, and Nordic skiers could have a new place to go. 

You're right that there are a lot of obstacles, but we are going to try. 

Is there an Evergreen MTB Alliance sort of advocacy group currently for ski touring and better access points in WA? I’d be stoked to volunteer time and effort if there’s work ongoing towards this. Or does such an organization need to be created?

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2024-05-24 23:49:59