Rider on the Storm at Mission Ridge

Chair3
Skiers on the Chair 3 run Toketie at Mission Ridge.

Day 15: Jan. 29, 2016

There’s something I love about skiing in a major storm.

When the winds are howling and the snowflakes are flying sideways, you’ll find me with a huge grin on my face.

SkiZer’s Day 15 at Mission was like that. A wild Pacific storm dumped several inches onto the slopes of this gem in the eastern Cascades by the time I arrived. And it just kept dumping through the day.

MissionBase2
Riders in the base area of Mission Ridge.

As luck would have it, I rode with a ski patrolman on the first chairlift. I asked him for a run recommendation and he pointed me to the Bomber Bowl area of Chair 2, the “Liberator Express” quad that takes skiers from mid-mountain to the top of Mission Ridge.

“Seems like it’s really blowing in over there,” he said.

With 30 mph winds pounding the top of the ridge, I headed to Bomber Bowl on one of the area’s primo cruisers, Katsuk. About four inches had fallen over a very hard base. The low-angle intermediate run was fast and fun as I floated on the new-fallen snow.

Bomber Bowl is named after a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber that crashed on Mission Ridge in 1944. A piece of the plane’s wing is displayed on the slope with a large sign that commemorates the crash.

Legend has it that if you touch the wing, you’ll bring more snow to the mountain. Consequently, riders are constantly swinging by to give it a lucky pat. The mojo seemed to be working on this day.

SkizerBomber
SkiZer gets ready for his first drop into Bomber Bowl.
BomberWing
Skiers pat the lucky wing in hopes of bringing more snow.

As I dropped in, swirling winds buffeted the impressive Bomber Cliffs, dumping more snow into the bowl below. It was mid-shin deep and I even got a few face shots.

Wow. This was still my first run.

I spent the morning doing laps on Chair 2, skiing various lines in the accumulating fluff. A sparse crowd — which is the norm at Mission — was there to share the wealth.

As the day wore on, I headed to Chair 3, the other lift that accesses the upper mountain. The raging storm had turned what had been a bullet-proof base into effortless powder skiing. The best runs tended to be the cruisers, which Mission has in abundance.

MidwayLodge
Midway Lodge offers riders a break from the storm.
MissionJPG
Click on the map to expand.

After a quick stop at Midway Lodge to get warm, I found the storm had picked up. Winds were gusting to 5o mph on the ridge, so I headed back to Chair 2. It was a full-fledged blizzard now, and the chairlift swung precariously as we ascended.

“Yee-oww! That was fun!” I screamed in the gale to my chairlift mates as we got off the swinging lift. The wind was making a loud moaning noise and it was hard to stay upright.

It was now a race to get in as many runs as possible before winds closed the lifts. I did one on the Bomber Cliffs, a stunning out-of-bounds hike into a large side-country bowl that brings skiers back onto Chair 2. And then I made another run under the cliffs, hitting a line I had skied earlier in the day. Nobody else had touched it and I laid down a nice set of parallel tracks.

SkizerTracks
SkiZer sets down some tracks under the Bomber Cliffs.

Then it was over. Chair 2 closed in mid-afternoon, and I managed to get three more runs on Chair 3 before the storm took it down too. Snow was falling harder as I skied back to the base area.

Wow, that bomber wing really does have some magic.

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