Story by Harry Kearney. Photos by Andrew Miller.
January was uncharacteristically good at Mt Baker this year. It’s another example of how much harder it is becoming these days to rely on past consistencies in weather, but we got lucky and this anomaly was fortuitous. Here at the end of highway 542, in this dark and wet corner of the United States, we watched our friends from elsewhere as they weathered dry and frustrating conditions while we quietly frolicked day after day in a relentless series of cold and snowy storms.
Chewy keeping the Mt Baker Highway clear. Snowbanks this size are a good sign for January.
While the rest of the snowboarding world was transfixed on powder-filled images of Japan and Europe, Andrew Miller and Jimmy Goodman saw beyond it all to the atmospheric events taking place in Washington. So rather than joining the masses and traversing an ocean, they struck north from the Sierra Nevada to the North Cascades and were rewarded handsomely. I picked them up at the airport on a rainy Sunday night- a good sign, because that meant it was snowing up high. We drove to Glacier and slept with that giddy feeling of waking up to fresh snow.
The very unique color pallette of the Pacific Northwest.
Sure enough the snow had come. And the weekend influx of people had cleared, so we were left with a purely Baker experience - empty chairs, deep snow, and hard storming.
Jimmy Goodman stoked to be back in the white room coming from a drought year in Sierra.
A couple of my main riding partners came along as well - Jerry Mark and Timmy Taussig. They’re the usual suspects, and the five of us commenced to some serious boarding. Aside from the good snow, it was Jimmy’s first time to Baker which always adds gas to the fire.
This was the first glimpse of blue ski Baker locals had seen in almost two weeks.
Mt. Baker demands a certain kind of snowboarding, especially when it’s snowy. We ride hard, fast and tight to create an environment for everyone to feed off one another all day long.
A little Banked Slalom train training through another classic run the Death Star.
Gabl’s is the low hanging fruit, but goodness that fruit is sweet. It’s the run directly under chair five and was host to most of our morning exploits, the kinds of runs to extinguish those first run powder shakes.
Timmy Taussig letting his Ultracraft loose.
Nothing better than riding on the lift and happening to catching Harry Kearney sending the Hollywood hit.
From there we would branch out into the sidecountry or the sneakier spots within the ski area boundary. The weather was so thick and heavy that we were confined to lower elevations where visibility was better.
Avalanche conditions were pretty tender, so sticking to smaller featured zones was the call.
And they say it only rains in Washington. Harry Kearney periscoping on the Elbow.
The diversity of temperatures within the cycle we were riding - and the cycles that had come before - made for interesting layers. One day would be pure cascade concrete and the next would be cold smoke. Winds were strong as well, so all of these factors made for some tenderness in the steeps. Working with that, we found plenty of soft pillows, drops, slashes and straight lines to play with.
Jerry Mark firecracking some pillows on his carbon flagship.
It was Jimmy Goodman’s first time to Baker so he had to tour of all the classic hits. Here he is hovercrafting over the Jamie Lynn hip.
Another day, another foot of fresh snow. We climbed up the Mt Baker highway early one morning to find that the clouds had lifted, exposing the surrounding jagged peaks in a soft sleepy glow. We rode light snow while the storm came back in again.
Chair 5 and a nice view of the Hemispheres.
Tools of the trade. Harry Kearney putting the Lone Wolf through its paces at Baker.
Jimmy Goodman getting in all the pow turns he can before heading back to the Sierra.
Little mid-day lodge breaks offered momentary shelter from mother nature’s onslaught outside, where we’d snack and caffeinate by the fire. Then back out to charge until we were spent.
Mt Baker has some amazing hits across the whole mountain and especially fun when your following the Lodge Boys around.
This was a recurring theme all the week. First chair to last chair.
Every last chair came as somewhat of a surprise. I believe more at ourselves though, continually pushing to the end of every day despite the fatigue in our bodies. Then it was back down into the mossy woods to hang our drenched gear over the wood-burning stove.
Harry Kearney tuning up his Flagship, his daily driver for Mt Baker.
Darkness comes early in Glacier, so we’d listen to the rain fall on the windows and know it was still stacking up on the mountain. We woke up the next morning before the sun in the same manner of all stormy mornings in Glacier. We made some coffee and drove back up to the snow, hitting the repeat button like a song so good you have to listen to it over and over.
No doubt, a January to remember at Mt Baker.