It’s as if we were planning a heist like Mark Wahlberg in the Italian Job. And we were “of sorts…”. Instead of gold bullion, it was the fresh, white powder us skiers & snowboarders dream about. Long, long ago while sitting at my computer, the instant messenger suddenly popped up and read “You Ready?” I responded with a “Hell yes!” Standing up, I looked around to make sure no bosses were in sight. Sneaking out of the office, I swung the office door open & slapped high fives with my buddy. Our plan was to steal some untracked powder turns late on a Wednesday night. Wait, what? Where can you go powder skiing at night?!?! If you live in the greater Seattle area, you’re in luck. There is such a fabled place and it is called Summit West.
Nighttime Pow Mission
Hopping into our ride, we rush out of Seattle and take I-90 east towards Snoqualmie Pass. With a one track mind, we set our sights towards the destination and are almost unaware that we were swimming upstream. We are so focused on our mission to get powder, we hardly even notice everyone else was heading home. Our windshield wipers push the rain away as the traffic continues to subside. After about 30 minutes, the traffic is virtually nonexistent and the road becomes windier and more desolate. Rain drops begin to get chunkier and eventually transition into wet snowflakes. The weather forecast for the past three days called for continued snowfall through Wednesday with no end in sight. And then… we finally arrived.
Pulling into the parking lot, huge walls of snow block our view of the ski area which added to the suspense & excitement. With only a few cars and snow falling steadily, it was almost unbearable. The stoke was high, so as soon as we parked, we bailed out of the car. Quickly changing from our office attire, we throw on the most comfortable clothes we own. What else but our colorful snowboard gear!
Untracked Pow At Night? No Way!
Rushing to the chairlift, we look up & see huge open runs with only a few tracks on them. How can that be? Okay, let us fill you in on a little known secret. During the work week, Summit West is closed on Monday & Tuesday and then only opens at 2:00 p.m. in the evening for Wednesday through Friday plus some weekend hours. Translation… first tracks and fresh pow after work!
As we ascend on the chairlift, we look down at a few people taking turns. This is the perfect stress reliever after a long day at work. Hootin’ and hollerin’ in excitement, they make turns in the fresh snow. We finally reach the top & strap in. For a moment, we stop and slap high fives as we look at the open field of snow in front of us. Under the orange halogen glow, we make turn after turn in the virgin snow screeching for joy just like the others we saw from the lift. At the bottom, we look up the hill studying the tracks we made. It was only an hour ago that we were stuck in a cubicle and now we were transported into a winter wonderland. With huge grins, we get back on the lift to do this again and again.
Recipe For Getting Untracked Powder At Night
If your work schedule isn’t flexible, there’s a few different ways to get these mid-week treats.
Find A Resort That Has Night Skiing
Even out west there are 1 or 2 ski resorts open at night. From Keystone in Colorado to Boreal in Tahoe, this gives you a chance to get the goods mid-week.
Check The Weather Forecast
For the best possible conditions, check the snow levels of the storm & understand when the snow will fall. If the resort is open all day, having a storm that rolls through in the afternoon will make it more likely to find fresh snow under the lights than a storm that starts in the a.m.
Find A Resort That’s Closed During The Day
If you’re lucky enough to live in Seattle area, then Summit West at Snoqualmie is the spot. They keep the resort closed on Monday and Tuesday, reopening at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday. This leads to a high likelihood of feet of fresh powder to slash when the sun goes down.
Following these 3 basic rules will help you keep your normal job, but at the same time quench your hunger for some epic turns. Let us know of a resort in your area that is perfect for a powder night.
Slopestyle and halfpipe are great events, but they’ve been over commercialized in recent years. The rider’s freedom of expression has been reduced in exchange for higher ratings and wider general public consumption. There are one-off competitions like Travis Rice’s Supernatural, held at Baldface Lodge, that have pushed the culture forward. But, are there any left that are still pure? Sure there is. Terje Haakonsen’s wonder child, the Arctic Challenge, but is there anything closer in North America? There is! Look no further than the Pacific Northwest – The Mt Baker Banked Slalom.
The Legendary Banked Slalom
Started in 1985, this is one of the oldest and baddest events in snowboarding. You won’t see speed suits like Giant Slalom but rather lots of Gore-Tex and twin-tip free-ride boards. Also, to keep with the grassroots style, the winner receives a Duct Tape trophy along with an embroidered Carhartt® jacket. Even the “Rob Morrow rule” oozes snowboard culture. Since it was his idea, it made sense to name it after him. Rob makes the brackets easy to follow. Each racer takes one qualifying run on Friday and about the top 25% for each category automatically qualify for the Sunday finals. If you don’t make it, you can try again on Saturday to qualify.
Compared to the US Open, which has moved from its original location to Vail, the Legendary Banked Slalom has stayed put at the snowiest ski resort on the planet – Mt Baker. If you make it up to Washington and want to see the course in person, head over to Chair 8. On rider’s right toward the edge of the ski area boundary, you will see the berms for the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom course.
Why is it so famous?
Not unlike the Daytona 500, the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom (a.k.a. the Legendary Banked Slalom) is considered the most prestigious of all banked slalom events. On top of that, it also happens to be one of the oldest banked slalom events in snowboarding. This event also gets credit as the incubator for Boardercross. Another shining point for the event is its snowboarders-by-snowboarders mantra, without the corporate push that has tarnished a lot of other historic competitions. Finally, the list of winners reads like the snowboarding hall of fame. Here are just a few:
Tom Sims (Won the 1st annual)
Xavier De Le Rue
Festival Dates (Past Schedules)
Friday February 3, 2023
8:00 – 8:45 AM • RACER CHECK-IN; MUST PRE-REGISTER; NO DAY-OF REGISTRATION
9:00 – 10:00 AM • COURSE INSPECTION
10:15 AM • RACE START
1:30 PM • MUSIC & FIRE PIT @ WHITE SALMON DAY LODGE (weather dependent)
4:00 PM • RESULTS – The list of qualifying racers for the Sunday Finals will post in the Racer Info Booth @ White Salmon Day Lodge
Saturday February 4, 2023
9:07 – 9:23 AM • COURSE INSPECTION
9:30 AM • SATURDAY RACE START
2:00 – 5:30 PM • BONFIRE, SALMON BBQ, MUSIC – Everyone welcome. Bring your bib to get complimentary food & bring a friend (check Racer Info Booth for non-racer food tickets). 21 & Over only in the Beer Garden
4:00 PM • FINALIST POSTING – The list of qualifying racers for the Sunday finals will post in the Racer Info Booth @ White Salmon Day Lodge
Sunday February 5, 2023
9:15AM • SUNDAY RACE START
NO COURSE INSPECTION unless a ton of snow falls and we need it packed out
4:00 PM • PRIZES & AWARDS – Main Level @ White Salmon Day Lodge
Please Note: Schedule of events is subject to change without notice depending on unpredictable circumstances. We will post all race time changes at the start shack and the Race Info Booth @ White Salmon Day Lodge lower level
Let’s first clear the elephant out of the room. Yes, the West gets all the hype and deservedly so. The East is filled with amazing history and features star-studded behemoths as well like Killington and Stowe. But, the Midwest is also home to A LOT of ski resorts. In fact, both Michigan (49) AND Wisconsin (34) have the 2nd and 3rd most resorts in the country after New York and even Minnesota(18) cracks the top 10. What these places lack in vertical they more than make up in passion and experience. In addition, it’s where I learned how to slide down a snowy slope and fell in love with the sport of snowboarding. This isn’t just a guide to the best Midwest ski resorts we’ve visited over the years. It also pays homage to a place I still hold very near and dear to my heart.
Terrain & Snow
Bohemia is like a unicorn. A place with steep trees, endless snowfall, and ungroomed terrain. Words cannot fully describe the uniqueness of this place. As soon as you get off the main trails and dive into the oaks, maples, and towering virgin white pine forest, you’ll get it. Zig zagging through the woods, you’ll be blown away by the quantity and quality of snow alongside terrain that you’d find at the top 1,000 vertical feet at a place like Winter Park’s Mary Jane. If you’re fortunate enough to visit on a blue-sky day (snowing 30 days in a row is a normal occurrence), the views of Lac La Belle are jaw-dropping. Oh… and they also have cat skiing!
Snowriver Mountain Resort
Great Family Vacation With Awesome Snow
Before Mt Bohemia opened in 2000, the Upper Peninsula O.G. was the duo of ski areas 2 ½ hours west — Indianhead Mountain and Blackjack. Within the western Lake Superior snowbelt, these two resorts merged into one back in 2014, called Big Snow Resort. Named, of course, after the region’s legendary ample high-quality snow that falls here due to lake effect. It’s nearly double or triple most other resorts in the Midwest (210” vs. 60-70”!).
New Owners.. Big Changes And A First For The Region
As of summer 2022, Big Snow Resort was acquired by another midwest mecca – Granite Peak. With any acquisition, the new owners changed the ski resort’s name to Snowriver Mountain Resort. In addition, the Indianhead area will be called Jackson Creek Summit, and Blackjack will be Black River Basin. The HUGE news though is the initial big investment – the first ever high-speed chairlift is coming to the region.
What Makes It One-Of-A Kind
Along with the ample snowfall, Jackson Creek’s lodging/parking is also unique in that it sits at the top, overlooking the Ottawa National Forest and you ski down. The soft snow plus wide-open terrain is perfect for families. Black River Basin’s vertical and acreage might be a bit smaller than Jackson Creek’s, but it does provide an assortment of tightly treed glades and groomers not to be missed. If you do visit this area, be sure to set aside time to see the Western Hemisphere’s largest active ski jump – Copper Peak. On a clear day, you can see this monster right from the slopes.
It’s All About The Park
What do you do to keep yourself entertained on shorter slopes? Park! And when it comes to kickers, booters, rails, and all sorts of other obstacles, Trollhaugen is annually ranked as one of the best in the Midwest. Continually refreshing the options within each of their three, sometimes four parks, you won’t get bored. Alongside their rope tow access, you can literally make hundreds of laps in their parks without stopping. And on Fridays, you can ski/ride until 3 AM!!! Besides a sick park, it also has a comfy ski bar that allows you a view of almost every run on the hill while sipping on a brew.
Jaw-Dropping Views With A Dash Of History
Conditions and terrain are of course a top priority, but when you actually get away, why not combine it with a full experience. That’s what Chestnut and the historic town of Galena provide. Established in 1826, nearly 85 percent of the “city that time forgot” is on the national register of historic places. Alongside the historic charm, head eight miles southeast to Chestnut Mountain Resort. Perched high above the mighty Mississippi River, the views provided are one-of-a kind. If skiing all day isn’t enough, they also offer up schussing under the lights. It’s the perfect option for a romantic getaway or family vacation.
Best Service & Amenities
When you think of full amenity resorts in the Midwest, Crystal Mountain should be pretty high up on the list. While not the biggest or snowiest resort, Crystal is all about going the extra mile on what it has. From providing the highest quality conditions possible on the slopes to a pedestrian friendly village and a focus on customer service, this all encompassing resort is a great option for those that just need to pamper themselves but still get a bunch of laps in. We’re guessing the word is out since they were the highest ranked ski resort in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award… and not just in the winter, but all four seasons for the Best Resort in the Midwest.
Alta Of The Midwest
To have SKI Magazine call you the “Alta of the Midwest”, it tells you A LOT about the place. That the ski area has a deep history focused on what’s important – skiing. Caberfae opened in the 1930’s and since then have aggressively expanded over the decades. In the 70s as was described in the book Ski Inc. 2020 Caberfae Peaks was “a sprawling series of hills served by 20-plus rope tows, five T-Bars and a chairlift, spanning some two miles from end-to-end.” And then in the 80s took this complex and moved tons of earth to two peaks increasing the ski area’s vertical from 270 to a hefty 485 feet.
Where the movement of dirt happened years ago, the trails provide a sense of above tree line skiing. At the same time, the lower mountain features ski trails that thread through forests especially on North Peak and off the Shelter Chair. And looker’s left you even have a hike to backcountry section. This combination provides a different feel than any other midwest resort. Then there is the skiers. You won’t find park rats or downhill Giant Slalom wannabes but people that love to ski as much as they can and love it. And it’s all done with the old school DIY spirit. It’s no wonder Ski Magazine called it “Alta of the Midwest.”
By far the biggest resort in the Midwest is Lutsen Mountains. Sitting on the ancient Sawtooth Mountains, these peaks rise over a thousand vertical feet above the monstrous Lake Superior. Offering four interconnected peaks with 95 trails spread over 1,000 acres, there’s enough variety to keep you occupied for days. Due to its northerly location (nearly 250 miles further north than Minneapolis), the ski season runs WAY longer than the rest of the region too, usually into May. From the summit of Eagle, Ullr, Moose and Mystery, skiers and snowboarders can gaze across the vastness of Lake Superior that looks less like a lake and more like an inland ocean.
For me personally growing up in Chicagoland, my friends and I enjoyed winters just as much or more than our summers. While many of us now live out West chasing powder, it was these Midwest ski resorts that made us fall in love with the sport.
When looking at clothing that’s specifically geared towards backcountry skiing, the first thing you’ll notice is the price tag. These jackets are normally hundreds of dollars more than the brand’s normal resort ski jacket. I’ll be honest… it has taken me YEARS to finally bite bullet and purchase a hard-shell jacket. I was concerned that it wouldn’t fit right or that I would have buyer’s remorse. Stuck with a $500-$600 coat that I didn’t want. After weeks of testing my new Ortovox Ortler 3L jacket in the worst elements, I can tell you I couldn’t be happier.
Ortovox – Not A New Kid On The Block
You’re always a little leery when it comes to picking up a product that hasn’t been around for decades, especially when it comes to backcountry gear. You want things like a ski touring jacket to be bomb proof. The name Ortovox has been a trusted brand for years, but it’s been on the avalanche transceiver side. Even so, their genetic makeup as a company over the last three decades is about being in the mountains, and based on that, you know they wouldn’t produce an inferior product.
Why Are Ski Touring Jackets SOOOO Expensive?
Looking at the features between a ski touring jacket and one focused on resort skiing, you’ll see that the resort product line has a TON more features. It usually has a powder gaiter, loads of zippers, pockets, and even a soft material for your face near your neck. The ski touring variety is the opposite – minimalistic. The cost comes down to the materials used and its construction. How tightly woven the stitches are. How well they tape the seams. And yet it’s ULTRA-light. We delve into all these things in detail along with a list of the best brands on the market in Backcountry Ski Jackets Are Like Fries, You Can’t Have Just One.
Over Bulk And Being Ill Equipped
When it’s been storming or a chance of snow in the forecast, we’d been going out with our resort jacket. It’s BRUTALLY heavy, and even though we have a 35L pack, it barely fits inside because of its volume. After we got the Adlerm Maloja soft shell for sunny days and saw how well it worked, it was time to make the leap and purchase the Ortovox 3L Ortler Jacket.
The Leatherman Of Our Ski Jackets
On our 1st day I was flabbergasted how well it did. At the trailhead, you normally start cold so you want to throw on a puffy to keep you warm. But once you embark, you throw it back into your kit since you’ll warm up quickly. Due to the Ortovox 3L jacket’s smaller fit size, I could easily wear it underneath the puffy jacket or over it. With the wind howling and it snowing sideways, I did just that. I had the puffy on the outside, and once I was ready, I threw the Patagonia nano puff in my pack and was off. And on another day when the temps hovered in the low 20’s, I had the puffy underneath yet still provided plenty of flexibility.
Light As A Feather, Strong Like A Bison
Now down to brass tacks – the number one function a hardshell has to do is be waterproof and windproof. Throughout our two-week ski touring trip in Idaho, Mother Nature threw EVERYTHING at us. Heavy gloppy snow, brutal winds, cold temps, and even warm sunny days. The coat kept me perfectly comfortable and dry. All this comes at an incredible light weight of 13.62 ounces, making it one of the lighter models on the market.
A Hard Shell That Breathes?
The part that really went above my expectations is its breathability. Hard shells are notorious for protecting you from the elements but terrible when you begin to sweat. The Dermizax NX membrane by Toray inside the Ortler 3L is incredible. It has a 20,000 mm waterproofness, 100% windproof, AND up to 28,000 g/m2 breathability. If you’re wondering what all this mumbo jumbo means, we go into detail in Unzip On What To Look For In The Best Womens Snowboard Jackets.
Getting Into A Fight With The Front Zipper
I will tell you the one thing that I don’t like about the Ortovox Jacket is the front zipper. Every jacket I’ve owned has had the slider on the right side and for some reason it’s on the left. It makes the zipping up a little more difficult than it needs to be. Is it a deal breaker? Absolutely not. Rather, it will teach me how to be more ambidextrous.
You Get To Support Ukraine
As a first-generation born in the US from Lithuanian immigrants, I’ve heard the stories from my parents about Russian soldiers storming through the country during WWII. The soldiers trying to assassinate my grandfathers. Burning all books written in Lithuanian. Seeing and reading what’s happening in Ukraine right now hits too close to home. The Ortovox Jacket is made in Ukraine, and the opportunity to support them is just the cherry on top.
Even if you aren’t going ski touring, I would take a close look at their entire product line. For resort skiers, the Swisswool Sedrun Jacket will keep you warm on those long cold lift rides. The Guardian Shell leans towards more of a person that spends 80% of their time inbounds but wants something that would work well ski touring too. But for us, the Ortovox Ortler 3L jacket is my go to for hardshells.
**Wisps of steam come out of his nose and mouth. His muscles twitch in excitement, ready for the start of the race. With a strong kick in the ribs, they’re off! The cowboy hat flies off the rider as man, horse, and skier rush through the course, tackling obstacles and turns at lightning speed. What am I talking about? Skijoring! It’s European and Western at the same time. An event the likes most of us have never seen or even heard of!
What The Heck Is Skijoring?
In Europe, people used horses and skis as a mode of transportation. It’s understandable that the term is derived from the Norwegian word kjøring, meaning to “drive.” If you combine that with the term “ski”, Skijoring roughly translates to “Ski driving”, which is a competitive sport where a skier or snowboarder is pulled by a person riding a horse through an obstacle course filled with jumps, bumps, and turns. Talk about an adrenaline rush! It’s pure chaos and just as exciting to watch in person.
Where To Watch Skijoring
Like most other sports, there is a Skijoring tour every winter across North America. The largest race on the schedule is held in Whitefish, Montana. Skijoring has been part of their Winter Carnival since the 60’s but due to insurance problems was stopped in the late 70’s. With the resolve of a mountain town spirit, a local businessman by the name of Scott Ping helped bring back this amazing event in 2003. One of the unique items of the Whitefish event is the Calcutta.
What Is A Calcutta?
It’s an opportunity to bid on teams to see how you think they will do during Sunday’s event. You can buy a team by being the top bidder for the team. If the team you bet on has the fastest time on Sunday, you win! Money is awarded for the top 3 teams in each division: Open, Sport, and Novice.
Whitefish, MT Festival Dates
Saturday – January 28, 2023
11:30 am Opening Ceremony, 12:00 pm Main Event – Big Mountain Ranch
7:00 pm Calcutta – Blue Moon
Sunday – January 29, 2023
11:30 am Opening Ceremony, 12:00 pm Competition – Big Mountain Ranch
7:00 pm Award Ceremony – Blue Moon
Full List Of Skijoring U.S. & Canada Races
If you can’t make it to the Whitefish Skijoring event, don’t worry. There are several stops all across the country! Let us know if you make it to a race and share your experience.