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May 3, 2009:

Turns-All-Year Crystalfest 2009, the very loosely organized group of backcountry ski enthusiasts that serves as a cornerstone of the Pacific Northwest touring community, doesn't really have an agenda. A few times a year, however, spontaneous events erupt based on mutual agreement among the "members." Crystalfest, which usually occurs a week or two after the lifts close at Crystal Mountain, WA, is one that has become a fixture.

Mary skins toward the top of Silver Basin as we prepare to take a run before the festivities - nice on top, a little sticky below

Weather was a potential problem - heavy rain the night before in town had probably lessened attendance for this year's event, but when I got up Sunday and looked at the telemetries, it showed 32 degrees at the base of Crystal and 22 at the top, with a bit of fog but no rain. My two friends who had expressed an interest both bailed, but I packed a lunch and hit the road anyway.

Paul Russell cracks a smile under the cornices - haven't seen him this happy since last year in Europe

The sun was out when I pulled into the Crystal lot, and one by one cars began to filter in. Paul and Mary were in the front line and I stopped to chat; when they said they planned on taking a lap before the party I decided to tag along with them and their friends Andrew and Lisa.

Smitty Russell and Paul Russell. Humans: So slow going up, such a rush going down!

The day was turning beautiful and hot. We headed straight up Chair 4 and through the forest, headed up into Silver Bowl and took a quick run. The snow was a little variable, and got mushy lower down, but everyone got some nice turns before traversing over into Campbell Basin. We ended up a little below the party site, but skinned up to join the festivities.

With many of the usual instigators away on business or at the Silcox Hut on Mt. Hood, Justin Davis had taken over as master of ceremonies, and a keg of ale was already in place. People came and went, but many of the year-round skiing public stopped by to say hello or just for a bit of exercise. I caught up with Joe, Lowell, Eric L. and Eric H., Jim, Amar, and many others, ate some good sausage and had a beer. At about two in the afternoon, the clouds rolled in and it started to snow. Puffy coats came out for a bit, and then the party came to an end as we skied back to the base. A nice way to spend the day with kindred spirits!

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