A New Season Opens on Chinook Pass

Naches Peak from the newly opened Chinook Pass.
  • Day 30 – May 17, 2016
  • Chinook Pass
  • Vertical for the day: 6,000
  • Year total: 587,000

It was a day for beginnings and endings.

The Washington Department of Transportation opened Chinook Pass (elevation 5,432) on Tuesday, May 17, and the SkiZer was there to make some turns. The highway closes for the winter months, and when Chinook Pass opens in the springtime, it offers a few weeks of skiing before it finally melts out.

The SkiZer pulled in about 9 a.m. along with a few other diehard skiers who had come for the experience. Jon Schwantes and Carlos Fraga, who had driven from the Tri-Cities, teamed up with SkiZer for an attack on Naches Peak, just off the top of the pass.

Climbing from Chinook Pass on Naches Peak.
Carlos turns past some avalanche debris on the first run off Naches Peak.

The snow was firm at the beginning, but quickly softened in the sunny, 50-degree weather. We hit the northeast side of the peak for a quick run, then climbed for the summit along the eastern ridge.

Jon and Linda on the west-facing slopes underneath Naches Peak.
Top of Naches
Jon, SkiZer and Carlos take a lunch break on Naches Peak, with Mount Rainier in the background.

There, we met Linda, a skier from Tacoma, who led us on an drop down the steep western side of the peak. At noon, Linda, Jon and Carlos headed for their cars and SkiZer headed for one more run off the eastern side of the peak.

All it all, it was a fun opening day on Chinook Pass. At 30 days on the season, it might well be SkiZer’s finale.

SkiZer hits Day 30 on the season.

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