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Snoqualmie Mt., January 16, 2008

There seemed to be a window of clear weather on Wednesday before the clouds rolled in, so Kevin wanted to tour. We hadn't skied Snoqualmie Mountain once this year, owing to avalanche concerns for the most part, but the four inches of bomber rain crust I had skied the day before on north facing aspects had the potential to hold it all together. We just hoped there would be enough fresh on top to make it worth skiing.

When we rolled into the Alpental maintenance lot around 9:30, there was already a track in from earlier in the morning - thanks, whoever got up before us! We followed it most of the way up except for a few "short cuts" we elected to take that probably didn't save us any time. Skinning was a bit difficult in places due to thin snow on top of the crust, and Kevin put his ski crampons on (I probably should have).

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We made it to the Slot entrance pretty quickly, saw that the two skiers ahead of us had dropped it, and decided to take a look at the Crooked. The view was tremendous, as the weather was still clear, but the entire north-facing slope looked to be wind-burnished rain crust. Thinking that the entrance to the Slot had looked a little more inviting, we back-tracked to the 6,000 ft. level and had a snack.

Unfortunately, the snow conditions at the top of the Slot Couloir (three or four inches of thick wind-deposited snow that was manageable with jump turns) only lasted for a few hundred feet. As we skied into the narrow body of the run, we discovered that the persistent north wind the past few days had moved all the snow over to the Phantom side (or someplace) as the surface was solid rain crust. Not exactly pleasureable skiing, but doable. In addition, the weather had changed dramatically and fog was creeping up the Slot even as we descended.

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Lower in the couloir, when it began to fan out, we found a foot or so of heavy fresh with a few ice chunks thrown in for fun, and got in some reasonable turns. We opted for the quick traverse out through the West notch rather than skiing all the way out the bottom as had the skiers before us, which went well but required a couple hundred feet of booting at the top.

Thick untracked greeted us on the return trip down the Phantom, also with a few icy chicken heads and sporadic sun crust, but fun nonetheless. The waterfall had looked to have excellent snow coverage as we passed it on the way up, and I decided to ski it, but frozen sideslip tracks from before the rain event made it less than smooth. I hacked my way down the first few feet, then jumped to reverse direction and was able to make some reasonable turns out to the car.

All in all, a good day out with all the elements, and probably more fun than skiing at the area. The small crack in the snow pack on Rock Face that we had noticed in the morning had grown huge, with smaller cracks radiating out in several directions, and we learned from Frank that they had closed Elevator Gate all day in anticipation of the whole thing sliding. I sat there with my camera on "video" mode while eating a bagel for about 15 minutes hoping to catch it as it went, but no go . . .

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