Skiing Mt. Baker on New Year’s Day

This blog is apparently now mostly about chronicling my experiences of skiing badly in as many places as possible. OTOH, at least it has a theme.

I grew up in the Seattle area, but had never been to Mt. Baker before (for skiing). I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that what I saw yesterday was not Mt. Baker at the peak of its powers.

Paid: $56.10 for some reason.
Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 9/10
Weather: Partly sunny very early, then high overcast most of the rest of the day.
Would Return?: I mean, I wouldn’t go out of my way *not* to return.

I went to Baker because it was the only place within three(-ish) hours of my annual holiday headquarters in Tacoma that was “fully open”. Although I think that of all ski resorts in the world, Baker is probably among those for which you can least easily gauge its openness by open trail percentages. Plus there were a couple trails that, once you were there, weren’t actually open. Snow was firm, eventually softening up on the intermediate slopes (Chair 8), but never on the steeper pitches (1 and 6). Fortunately, there were a lot of soft-enough bumps on the intermediates on Chair 8; unfortunately, there were also a lot of neophytes trying to snow plow down them.

I was also surprised by the boarders here — it reminded me of the 1990s, but not in a good way. Every off-load, I was having to take evasive action to avoid the snowboarder pile. In numerous places it seemed like a flash mob of boarders had decided to reenact The Day After the Battle of Gettysburg. I know this was during the kids’ winter vacations, but it was much worse than skiing on 12/28 at White Pass last year. Given that there were no lift lines and there were plenty of open parking spaces, the skiing felt oddly crowded.

That said, the views were great (see below) and, IMHO, the views alone make Baker worth visiting (one time anyway). The lifties were exemplary (except in getting people to clear away from the offload area). Despite the paucity of snow throughout the west, the hazards here were minimal and easily avoided. Weather and visibility were both very good. Lodge food was neither extraordinary nor expensive — a tradeoff I was more than happy with. Parking-to-lift was among the best ever (parked at White Salmon, second row, very easy access to the ticket booth and then C-7).

Had good on-lift conversations the few times chair sharing happened. It seems like I get my best perspectives on life, activity, and aging from 60+-year-old random lift strangers; good job, whatever your names are.

Some photos:

If I ever were to get into back-country skiing or had someone willing to show me the ropes at Baker, I’d probably need to go back. The out-of-bounds you can see from the chairs looks amazing. However, given the practicality of it being 3+ hours away and the occasional oddness of the on-piste offerings (I got the impression that the lift layout may have been designed by Pittsburgh-based city planners), with decent snow and weather conditions and given my skiing preferences it would be hard for me to justify Baker over the easier access to Crystal. For the “laid-back and local” feeling, I think I preferred White Pass’s relative politeness and self-awareness (perhaps Yakima County does a better job of controlling its youth than does Whatcom).

But, whatever, it was fun.

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