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Opening Day at Mount Baker

By Craig Bokesch - November 30th, 2007

14 inches of fresh powder is always a good reason to take a day off, especially when it has fallen at Mount Baker on the night of opening day, one of the snowiest mountains in the world. An early morning departure from Seattle at about 5:15 am landed us at the lodge by 8:45. A quick ticket line allowed us to be on our way to the top by 9. When we arrived, it took me about 60 seconds to find my board buried beneath about 18 inches of fluffy powder.

It actually felt like too much snow at times and took awhile to get use to.

Chair six was the second lift we took. Most folks who made it up this one had to pause for a moment to soak in their surroundings. Oh what a sight it was up there. Clear blue skies and untouched snow surrounded us in every direction. The smell of fresh pine was in the air, along with a nice winter chill to remind us where we were standing. It was incredible. After a few photos for some Altrec dispatches, we went down either the Canuck's Delux or North Face runs. I don't remember for sure which ones we took first, but they remained deep and steep all day long.

The rest of the day we poked all over the mountain. It felt like about 80% of it was open, and since it was a Thursday, kiddie traffic was kept at a minimum and the runs were pretty clear all the way down.

I also managed to perfect an optimal base layering system for this event. I've been trying to reduce garment weight as much as possible on these outings. A week earlier I got a little too aggressive with this approach at Whistler Blackcomb's opening weekend. I chose to sport a sweet baby blue Altrec branded North Face Vaporwick tee shirt, followed by an Altrec branded capilene 1 long sleeve tee by Patagonia, with my shell on top. 25 degree temperatures made this combo a little insufficient, especially on the lift rides up.

So for Baker, I mixed it up a bit and rolled with a Mountain Hardwear Hyperdry tee, followed by a Mountain Hardwear long sleeve Hyperdry tee. On top I sported one of my favorite pieces of all time, the Ibex Shak. I really like this one cause of the extended sleeve lengths, which extends the cuffs almost a full inch onto your palm. I find that helpful for keeping your wrists a little dryer after you take a spill in the deep stuff.

On the outside, I've been experimenting with The North Face Freethinker, but I'm finding the sleeve lengths are a little shorter than I need them to be. I may have to retire this one and upgrade to North Face's 2007 freethinker. Even the discounted price for a smart guy holds me back a bit on this one. I'll probably give in eventually, or maybe roll with any one of my other Arc'teryx shells next time.

If you haven't been to Mount Baker, I'd encourage you to only go during the week after a fresh snowfall. From past experience, I can assure you the weekends will be crowded, unless of course you decide to venture out into the backcountry.



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