Who’s ready to eschew their manky long johns and worn-out Gore-Tex for some fun costumes, great music and pitchers of PBR? It’s that time of year again. The Dirt Bag Ball is just around the corner.
Ahow, me hearties! The theme this year is Pirates, Hags and Scallywags. So weigh the anchor and hoist the mizzen. This is the party of the season, and you do not want to miss it!
The Dirt Bag Ball is an annual fundraiser for the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol. Every year the patrol and members of the Royal Court of Dirtbags vote on the season’s biggest dirtbags (aka ski bums, lifers, first-in-liners, B Lot denizens, and overall rock star locals) and crowns the King and Queen for the following season.
Get your tickets at the ski patrol office near the base of the gondola or call 360-663-3060 to reserve yours. The raffle this year is filled with booty. Get your raffle tickets from a patroller to support the avalanche dog program.
One of the luckiest ski seasons in history ended at Crystal this past weekend. Lucky because of the fortunate timing of our weather events. Usually when it rains here we shrug our collective shoulders in disgust. We wonder why our ski areas can’t be 1000′ higher. We envy the cold temps of the Rockies and marvel at the light snow of the Wasatch. We know that with just a bit of luck, we could have the best skiing in the world. But alas, this is the Pacific Northwest–home of Cascade concrete and plastic-bag wearing locals and the birthplace of Gore-tex. We don’t expect perfect snow.
But then we have a season like this one. We anticipated an El Niño; our imaginations were primed for groomers. Narrow-under-foot ski sales were up. Goggles sales were down. Everyone was picking out a good pair of sunglasses. And dusting off their foul weather gear.
We never knew that this season the stars would align for us. The ocean currents would fall into sync and we would get very, very lucky.
That’s not to say it didn’t rain this season. It rained like crazy. And that’s where we got lucky. It rained on Wednesdays. (I know this because Wednesdays are my day off.) In fact it rained eight Wednesdays in a row (I was counting). But each subsequent Friday, right before the weekend crowds arrived, it snowed deep and light and repaired the rain-soaked slopes with a glorious quilt of powder. Every Saturday for two months was a powder day.
As most of you know, when conditions at Crystal are good there’s no ski area like it. By March, the north-facing slopes were filled in like I haven’t seen in over a decade. Pinball resembled a fairway, just a slight undulation where normally a deep, narrow gash splits the north face of the King. At its prime this season, the upper mountain held over 10 feet of snow in places.
As winter turned the spring, the weather continued to cooperate. The last three weekends were legitimate spring conditions. The corn developed into large isothermal grains, creating slush bombs along the frontside and into Middle Ferk’s. The cat crew groomed these bumps every night back into corduroy, and the snow bar at the Summit House was a huge hit. We all came away with awesome goggle tans and bruised livers. The past few weeks were one long party, and the final closing was a little sad.
Now it looks like next season might be a La Niña, which means colder and wetter than usual. What do you all say? Isn’t it time for two lucky seasons in a row?
As the Most Interesting Skier in the World would say, stay powder-hungry my friends.
Greenwater local, Josh Wirta, grew up skiing at Crystal. Josh is a Freeride Skier and TGR Co-Lab Finalist. Josh was diagnosed with bone cancer in April 2014.
Two weeks ago I came across Josh out skiing with his dad, Mark. I rode the chair with him and heard him talk about the day and how much enjoyment he was having being back on the slopes for the second time this season. We unloaded the chair, and Josh never even paused as he skated over the edge. A few seconds later he was out of sight at the bottom of the bowl. He didn’t look to have missed a beat.
In my early years at Crystal on patrol, I would ride the Rainier Lift and watch Josh as a little boy ski the front side with his father Mark, over and over and over. The first chair in the morning to the last chair in the afternoon, Josh and Mark were there. It didn’t matter what the the conditions were. It could have been rain, sun, or if we were lucky, an epic powder day. As we all know time flies. Before you know it, 20 years have slid by.
Many skiers and snowboarders consider this to have been a poor ski season. And if you look at the numbers, it was. But then, when you see a guy like Josh having such a good time, it’s important to remember that any day in the mountains is better than none. In the eyes of a guy battling cancer who’s just living each day as it comes, those moments in the mountains (even on a so-called poor season) are all the more sweet. Sometimes, it takes someone like Josh who is out grabbing life and enjoying what he loves to realize life is good and to enjoy every moment.
The article in the attached link was written by Kim Kircher and was posted in the recent Powder mag.com. As patrollers, we realize our job is unique. For me and the entire patrol team, the thrill and excitement of early morning avalanche control work to make it safe for the skiing public, continues to be the highlight of our job.