Nisqually Chutes, May 4, 2011
Wednesday was the only forecast sunny day of the week, and Frank Neumann e-mailed about meeting up to ski somewhere on the south side of Rainier. No one else seemed interested or available, so Frank and I met up at the Eatonville bakery at 7:30 and talked about where to ski between bites of lemon jelly doughnut. He had never skied the Nisqually Chutes, only taken photos from afar of Kevin and me skiing, and I mentioned that we could leave a car at the bridge and ski all the way down given the snow cover this year. It didn't take much to persuade Frank, and it was on.
The snow surface made for fast travel with about 3 inches of fresh over a semi-frozen raincrust, and I was pretty much able to beeline it directly up the climber's trail to about 7,500 ft. and then start a gradual uphill traverse toward the Nisqually Chutes. Perfect weather and warming temps that were just right for a thin shell made skinning fun, and we arrived at the mouth of the chutes in a little over two hours.
Skiing was good, if not great. Four to six inches of fresh snow had been deposited in the chutes, a little wind-affected but nice cushion from the frozen crust underneath. We skied in stages, and Frank seemed grateful for the extra support his new Dynafit Zzero 4C boots offered in comparison to the F3's he had been using earlier in the year. He even got in the "Figure 8" mood lower in the run and was exclaiming loudly in both English and German as we hit the moraine at the bottom.
There were actually a couple of miles of good turns on the way down to the bridge as well - nice snow that only turned to isothermal glue for the last few hundred feet, and totally smooth except for our tracks. We stuck to skier's left for the top portion, then moved over to the right side of the stream at the big bend. Kind of like the Vallée Blanche, except better skiing and no crevasses or other people! There was enough snow (around 10-12 feet) as we neared the bridge that we were able to traverse through the trees and end up directly across from the parking lot rather than ski up the road at the other end of the bridge. After a quick run back to Paradise and chatting with some of the other skiers there, we headed directly to Copper Creek for a slice of Frank's favorite Marionberry pie and coffee . . .