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Kendall Ridge, November 21, 2009

Forget about those depressing forecasts for an El Niño "warmer and drier than usual" winter. It's mid-November and the ski season is off to a running start!

After a great day of pow and sun last weekend at Steven's Pass, I headed up to Snoqualmie with Mike O'Brien to meet Kevin at the Summit West lot. The lifts had been open for a week, and there were plenty of enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders pouring into the area. I had been expecting a lot of new snow from the stormy weather the night before, but only an inch or so covered a nasty raincrust from Friday's deluge.

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We started skinning at the I-90 overpass, and almost immediately came upon a very large group of Asian snowshoers moving at a rather sedate pace. Deciding to improvise, we set out on a more or less parallel course and found the going a little rough due to minimal snow coverage. A deep rain crust kept us from punching through to dirt, and we soon outpaced the snowshoe group.

Light snow became heavier as we broke in the open areas of Kendall, and even though the rain crust persisted until around 4,500 ft., more and more new snow covered it as we ascended. Around 10-12" of wind-affected fresh blanketed the surface at the top of the ridge, and skiing promised to be good.

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Sure enough, the top 1,000 vertical feet of skiing was very nice, with only a few deep holes marking not-yet-covered boulders and a not-too-bothersome crust buried about a foot under the surface. As we entered the trees, however, the story changed. The heavy rain crust combined with frozen tree bomb craters and barely covered downed trees made for some horrendous skiing. The bottom 1,000 verical feet, with tons of side-stepping, ramming into slide alder, and falling backward into stream beds, was more tiring than the skin up!

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