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  1. #1
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    Foothills Skiing & Snowshoeing

    This is the first time in several years that the snow conditions have been this good in the Wenatchee Foothills for exploration on snowshoes and particularly on skis. It only takes about a foot of snow (consolidated or not) for snowshoes to be useful tools for exploring the foothills, but getting conditions that are good for skiing is more difficult. First it takes more snow and then that snow has to set up so it's stiff at the base and keep skis from grounding out. Often we get snow that comes in dry and is bottomless. Then it warms up and all the snow disappears. This year the snow has kept piling up and although the snow below about 1500 vertical is not deep (you will hit the ground frequently if you ski the lower foothills) the snow above 1500 feet has gotten deep and stiff enough to make for decent skiing.

    During the short days of winter, a Dawn Patrol logging some snowshoeing or skiing makes a day of work much more tolerable. This morning, for example, I grunted up snow-covered slopes, watched a few deer who were watching me, enjoyed a spectacular sunrise, and then skied back down to the outskirts of town. Sitting in front of a computer doesn't seem so odious after all this.

    Some things to observe about foothills snowshoeing and skiing: 1) Particularly on skis, this qualifies as stupid fun given the fact that you can and will hit hard matter, and given the fact that skis can get tangled up in green (buried sage and bitter brush) -- skiing fast and out of control is recipe for injury; 2) Skiers who want to explore the lower-elevation foothills closer to Wenatchee should employ an old pair of rock skis for the task (see above) -- you don't want to expose new boards to such abuse; 3) Large portions of the foothills are closed (e.g., Sage Hills) or are private land -- observe those closures and stay off private land; 4) A good headlamp will greatly extend your ability to log an outing at the beginning or end of day -- for this application where you're not necessarily just following a trails, a lamp with at least a 200 lumen output is recommended.

    Where to go. Because the Sage Hills are closed,the only legal route in that general area is to snowshoe or ski up Horse Lake Road -- personally, I think this is fun on cross-country skis. Twin Peaks has lots of off-road skiing opportunities -- park at the end of pavement, head up the road a ways and then explore some of the many surrounding slopes (there's nice terrain up here and you can have fun exploring and discovering slopes with some enjoyable turning and very little avalanche hazard). Saddle Rock and Dry Gulch have fun snowshoeing but the trailheads are enough lower that getting adequate snow coverage for skis is quite rare. The exception to that rule is the gravel road at Dry Gulch heading up to the earthen dam and the reservoir area behind the dam -- this road can be cross-country skied during snow cycles like we've got now. Finally there is some fun snowshoeing and skiing off the Number Two Canyon Road closer to town than where you park to ski Twin Peaks. Most of the road is flanked by private property but there are pockets of public property that have some scenic walks and skiing. Get out a 7.5-minute topographic map, study the area, and have fun exploring it.

    Some pictures taken this morning.

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ID:	1703 Sunrise over Twin Peaks
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ID:	1704 Morning light on Chopper
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ID:	1705 Clouds blanketing Wenatchee
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ID:	1706 Fancher Heights just above cloud level
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ID:	1707 More sun on Twin Peaks.
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ID:	1708 Looking over Wenatchee and up the Columbia River Valley
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ID:	1709 Looking Southeast toward Jumpoff Ridge

  2. #2
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    While conditions in the general foothills maintain, I'm trying to maintain a streak of consecutive days of skiing going. I'm at 9 days in a row now. On Dec 23 and 24 my daughter and I had really fun short tours up on Twin Peaks. On Christmas I thought the streak was going to die as Christmas festivities and preparations for Christmas dinner was taking precedence. My daughter suggested we ski the slope beside our house down to the ditch as fires had cleared it of sagebrush and we had an opportunity for a first ski descent. It wasn't really safe skiing and a buried sagebrush snag caught my ski on one turn and sheared it off my foot. Fortunately I didn't hit the skewer of another burnt sagebrush during the resulting tumble and the streak stayed alive.

  3. #3
    Administrator raybirks's Avatar
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    Skinned up Horse Lake Road again today. Conditions are not nearly as nice as they were last earlier this week but it's still skiable.

  4. #4
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    I haven't been skiing the lower foothills much the past few weeks but with the old snow solidifying and about five inches of new snow (Tuesday's dump) overlaying the old snow, Matt Dahlgreen and I enjoyed a dawn patrol ski this morning. The lower part of our run was breakable crust, but most of skiing was a powder topping on a firm base. This was the best next-to-Wenatchee ski run of the season so far. With warming weather predicted, this little piece of foothills gladness may well be foothills sadness by tomorrow. Oh how fickle be the powders of winter.

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  5. #5
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    Looks gorgeous, Andy. I skied lowlands today too above my house. By 10AM the south facing slopes had changed from pow to mush. Shaded slopes should stay nice for some time I think unless it gets really warm.

  6. #6
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    February 1, 2016. Conditions are still holding up to provide 'interesting' skiing in the foothills. There's a well consolidated base that is quite frozen in the morning and evenings. It only takes a few inches of consolidated (or frozen) snow to protect skis from rocks and branches so right now you can ski many slopes without damaging bases or edges. Even slopes that are quite low. Today I skied the north side of Saddle Rock from the WRAC. Carried the skis up (the walking on the crust was more efficient than skinning) and then skied most of the way down (carried skis down about the last 100 vertical feet). Pretty unusual to be able to ski saddle rock most of the way down -- the trailheads are quite low. So even though the snow is scratchy and your skis will make quite a racket on the ice/crust, it's worth doing for the novelty factor.

  7. #7
    Administrator shaffer's Avatar
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    I was up Twin Peaks area this morning snowshoeing with a friend. Pretty funky snowshoeing on the sunny slopes. Stiff top crust but about every fourth step we would break through and be up to our knees in snow even in our snowshoes. This was fine except my friend was carrying a baby on her back. So a bit awkward for snowshoeing on the sunny slopes up that way.

  8. #8
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    February 11 Backcountry skied in the foothills up a peaklet with about 1,200-foot gain using the Hok skis (see article on the main website right now about Hoks). Snow was quite variable and I could not ski it smoothly with the Hoks and a single staff but I wasn't crashing and burning either. Got down safely though far from elegantly. I would have been really interested to ski the same conditions with my AT skis to see if I fared better, worse, or the same. Alas, 2 hours away from work was all I could justify.

    February 12: Cross-country skied on a friend's property in the Wenatchee Heights. Even though the track had been packed with a snowmobile, the snow was deep, unconsolidated, mush. One-word technical summary of conditions:Yuk.

  9. #9
    Those Hoks are pretty fun, huh? Wait until you try them in powder in the woods. There's a lot of stuff up near Horse Lake Mt. that is fun and skiable with Hoks that I wouldn't ski with my backcountry rig.

  10. #10
    Gotta admit those Hoks look like a lot of fun.

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