Well, at least it is to skiers in the Pacific Northwest. Nothing scares snowriders from the mountain like the threat of wet stuff. But it wouldn't be a proper winter in the PNW without a few rain out days.
|Timberline Lodge, covered in snow
Ski areas here are prepared for the occasional soggy day of "snain." (Yes, that's what they call it on the snow reports - no self respecting ski area actually wants to admit it's raining.) To keep their guests dry, resorts hand out dorky plastic bags with arm- and head-holes to slip over jackets. This year I actually had the pleasure of wearing one of these nifty accessories on an especially wet ski day (sorry, no photos - didn't want to risk drenching my camera.) And after bombing down Two Bowl, I got a backhanded compliment ("You ski pretty well for wearing a plastic bag") from some smart a$# man.
A couple of weekends ago, my friend Katie and I planned another uphill assault on the Palmer Lift. Checking weather reports the night before, rain was predicted to start at 4 pm the next day. No problem - we planned to be done well before any moisture began falling from the sky. When we met that morning, Katie informed me the forecast had changed - the rain's start time had been moved up to 1 pm. Although it was cutting things close, we decided to go ahead with our tour, and turn back when things started getting soggy.
|I attempt to conquer the big snowball
Katie and I arrived at Timberline Lodge to overcast skies thick with leaden gray clouds. We hurried to get ready, and hit the trail around 9 am. To get the farthest distance possible, the plan was to take minimal stops. But right away I was distracted by a huge snowball on the side of the snowcat track.
|Take that, snowball!
Who doesn't love playing with a giant snowball? Think I can climb it?
|Katie laughs at her goofy friend
Katie of course, couldn't do anything but laugh at her goofy friend. And remind me that we needed to keep moving!
|Slogging up the cat track
But once we passed the snowball, my friend and I settled into an uphill rhythm, following the bumpy track made by Timberline's many snowcats. As we climbed, the mountain, far up ahead, guided us on.
|I get artsy fartsy
Mt. Hood's summit was cloaked in a swirling white lenticular cloud. Although it didn't stand out much against the white overcast sky, while messing around in photoshop later I accidentally produced this artsy image. And I kind of like it. At least you can now see the mountain's features and the cloud stands out a bit better.
|Our friend the snowcat at Silcox Hut
We made good time up to the Silcox Hut (a mid-mountain cabin that hosts overnight guests). The wind was blasting our faces, so Katie and I sought shelter beside its walls, and downed a quick snack. And I couldn't resist snapping a few more shots of the cool yellow snowcat that ferries visitors back and forth.
|Clouds are getting thicker up high
But my friend and I couldn't linger long if we wanted to make the top of Palmer Lift and beat the rain. So we pulled on another layer and continued our climb into the howling wind. Up above Silcox Hut, the mountainside is totally exposed to the elements. Sometimes conditions can be brutal. I can tell you that day it wasn't much fun. The wind stung our faces and chilled my hands. At least the lift wasn't running, and uphill travel was allowed adjacent to the towers. If visibility got bad, we'd have landmarks to follow.
|Lenticular cloud over Hood
Looking back, I noticed a dark gray cloud hanging over the western sky. It appeared as though rain was falling from it's underside. Not a good sign. Nearing the chairlift's halfway unloading point, I began to feel occasional drops strike my jacket. Katie noticed too, but she was in denial.
Then the rain began to fall in earnest. Katie looked at her watch. The time was 11 am. We both grumbled about the weatherman getting it wrong. But now the question was, should we continue?
|Looking down at the lift houses below
The decision was unanimous. Neither one of us wanted to be stuck on the mountainside in a driving rainstorm. Besides getting drenched, we were afraid visibility would quickly shrink. It's no fun to try and pick your way downhill if you can't see. Katie and I sadly pulled the climbing skins off our skis, and headed downhill.
|A red snowcat is the only colorful thing in this landscape
Instead of enjoying lunch on top of the Palmer, we ate perched on a bench beside the lockers in the Timberline Day Lodge. Katie loves Kahlua, and I'd packed a small bottle, planning to surprise her at the top. But instead of enjoying a treat on the mountain, we ended up surreptitiously slipping shots in our hot chocolate.
Ah, skiing the PNW. Sometimes it gets a little wet. But although our uphill tour got cut short by r@#$ it was still great to get outside and play on my favorite mountain.
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday.