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Local Conditions

April 21, 2016


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Spring is Here and It's Time to Play!

This is always a special time of year when the North Cascades Highway opens.  Skiers will flock to Washington Pass for easy access to some spectacular terrain, bikers can ride along 5' tall snowbanks, alpine climbing can be combined with ski descents,  and the local hiking and climbing in Mazama is ready.  Here are the latest conditions:

  • Highway 20 will open Friday April 22 at 11am to both east and west bound traffic.
  • Skiers will find lots of snow above 4000'.  No parking lots will be plowed yet so be prepared to line up along the snowbanks for the Birthday Tour.  Access to Silverstar from Silverstar Creek may include a bit of dirt but mostly skinable to the summit.
  • Alpine climbers can find great ski access to the Early Winter Spires.  There is nothing better than skiing back to your car after climbing the South Arete on South Early Winter Spire!
  • Mazama crags like Fun Rock, The Matrix, Goat Wall are mostly dry and  ready for climbers.  Prospector crag has a few seeps and Restless Natives will stay wet for a while longer.
  • Hikers will need to stay low but they will be rewarded with Spring Beauties and Balsam Root flowers.  Dry hikes include Cedar Creek to the falls, Monument Creek, West Fork of Methow (for first couple miles), Spokane Gulch, Community Trail, and, of course, trails down valley like Pipestone Canyon, Lewis Butte, Patterson Mountain, etc...  Hikes that are NOT accessible include Goat Peak, PCT, Maple Pass, Cutthroat, and other trails above 4000'.
  • Mountain Bikers will find dry single track at Riser Lake, Sun Mountain, and most of Rendezvous Basin.  Buck Mountain is too wet to ride.
  • Hart's Pass is has 87" of snow according to the Snotel Site.  The gate to Harts Pass is closed at the trailer turn-around 10 miles below the pass.  However campers will find dry spots at River Bend and Ballard campgrounds.

The Goat's Beard will be open daily from 9-5 and we have a great selection of new gear, footwear, and clothing for Spring.  Stop by for any questions or just to visit after the long winter away!

March 13, 2016


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Spring Is Coming But It's Still Winter Up High

While you may see melting snow in the Methow and trees and flowers budding in Seattle, we are skiing amazing powder in winter conditions above 5,500' on WA Pass!  Here are the details:
  • Highway 20 is still closed at the Early Winters Gate.  A snowmobile is still required to get up the highway.  Snow on the highway is still deep from the bottom but is pretty bumpy.  Slide paths above Cutthroat are negotiable without too much difficulty including those below the Spires.
  • Skiers will want to get above 5,500' to find quality snow conditions.  Below that point you will find a mix of sun and rain crusts or glonch.
  • WSDOT has said they will begin snow removal from the highway on March 22.  If that comes to pass, skiers will no longer be able to sled up the highway although it will provide quick access to skiing from Silver Star gate and below.
  • Goat Creek Road is melting fast but you can still sled up towards Goat Peak and points north.
  • Harts Pass Road is still snow covered from the Lost River bridge and very "whooped"
  • I think we can safely say that lowland/front country skiing is done for the year - too much rain and sun to find quality skiing down low.
  • Methow Trails will continue to groom the Nordic trails through the end of March.  Coverage is good and conditions are fast for skating on mornings when it is below freezing and classic skiing is recommended after things warm up.
  • Crags on the valley floor are melting quickly and I think climbers will find sunny and dry rock at the Matrix and other south facing aspects later this week with temps in the 40's-50's!  Might be time for that "winter" ascent of Prime Rib!

As always, give us a call or stop by the Goat's Beard and we can help you find your next adventure.  We will shorten hours to 9-5 Thursday-Monday and will be closed Tuesday-Wednesday starting March 22.  We will return to normal hours when Hwy 20 is opened for the season!

February 21, 2016


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Winter is not over yet!

North Cascades Conditions Update: Winter is not over yet!

Winter is not over yet in the North Cascades. During last week's warm up, we experienced a significant avalanche cycle but have hit the reset button with over 2 feet of new in the past 6 days and another foot forecasted for Friday 2-19. Here are the details:

•Hwy 20 is still closed at the Early Winter's gate 2 miles west of Mazama. WA DOT groomed the highway to the overlook at WA Pass to fix the weather station so t...he road is in great shape.
•Snow depth is around 110" at 5,450' and ski penetration was over 1' on Thursday Feb. 18. It isn't blower low density but conditions above 6,000' are soft, deep, and excellent! Below 6,000' we have seen a crust layer but that may be buried by the foot of new snow forecasted for Friday. As always, check NWAC for avalanche conditions.

•Harts Pass also has around 110" base depth but the road is very bumpy from heavy snowmobile traffic.

•The lowland/front country skiing is probably done given all the valley rain but if we get another shot of low snow, there is still a solid base.

•Methow Trails have survived a couple days of rain (which actually made the skate skiing very fast and fun!) and have 3-7" of snow forecasted for Friday 2-19. Both skating and classic skiing are great with perfect firm platforms.

We have great cross country and AT rental's including Voile, DPS, and Ski Logik with Dynafit or Fritschi Vipec bindings. Stop by or give us a call to discuss getting you out on your next adventure!

"Lets go ski THAT!"

January 16, 2016


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A new year but same great snow!


The holiday's have come and gone and a new year has started.  But some things haven't changed - the skiing has remained fantastic in the Methow Valley and the North Cascades!  Here are the details:

  • Nordic conditions are exceptional on all trails.  We have had consistent snow to keep things white (as opposed to those pesky brown needles) and the platform is firm and fast.  Methow Trails has been doing an amazing job with grooming and it certainly looks to be a long ski season!
  • Hwy 20 is still closed at the Early Winter's Gate 3 miles west of Mazama.  Road is in decent shape for snowmobiling but expect debris piles under the Early Winter Spires.
  • Hart's Pass Rd. was supposed to be groomed for the first 3 miles on the 14th but I didn't get confirmation it was done.  Otherwise - expected a very bumpy ride!
  • Front Country/Lowland skiing on Sandy Butte, Rendezvous, Couger Mtn, Aspen Lake, etc... has remained good.  We had almost a foot of snow on Wednesday the 11th all the way to Twisp.  We had a subsequent warming but all reports came in with glowing reviews.  Forecast is for more snow today, Jan. 16, but could get warm...
  • WA Pass telemetry is out so don't know the current depth but expect it to be around 80" with great surface conditions.  We have had consistent snow with good cold temperatures.  A couple days last week had some sun on south slopes that warmed and caused some settling and some slides.  A snowmobile was caught in a slide under the Early Winter Spires and another couple groups backed off Delancy Ridge when they observed significant settling.  Stick to the trees and safe zones and you will find fantastic powder skiing.  As always, read the NWAC site for the latest Avi situation.
  • At 6000' we have received approximately 300" of snow so far this season which has created a fantastic base and people have been skiing all over the valley in places we haven't seen for the last couple years!  Let's hope the promises of El Nino continue to be broken!

We are frequently asked about how to access the backcountry without a snowmobile.  The simplest answer is to contact North Cascades Mountain Guides.  They charge a reasonable fee to take you and your crew up on WA Pass with snowmobiles and have an awesome day of skiing tailored to your needs.  Another option for the dirt bags is to try to hitch a ride with other skiers.  I generally suggest bringing a 60' rope and at least a 6 pack of beer to the end of Hwy 20 at 8am and start begging.  Don't expect a guided tour or to get a ride back at the end of the day.

Have fun, be safe, and please remember the Goat's Beard when you need to buy some stuff!

December 18, 2015


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As Good as it Gets? Conditions 12-18-15


Conditions for all winter activities around Mazama are fantastic and only seem to be improving!  We have received another foot of snow on the valley floor this week and more than that on WA Pass.  Here are the details:

Highway 20 closed at Early Winters Gate 1 mile west of Mazama

All Nordic trails are groomed and in great shape with level platforms and firm bases after some colder temps.

WA Pass settled snow depth 90" with over a foot of fresh snow in the past 4 days so surface conditions are deep powder.  Reports of some wind stiffening on north aspects but generally fantastic backcountry conditions.  As always, be cautious in avalanche terrain and check with NWAC for current avalanche forecasts.

Highway 20 is smooth to the Silverstar Gate but gets very bumpy above that point.

Last report is that there are still trees across the Hart's Pass road but snowmobiles seem to be getting past (anyone want to take a saw up there?).

Forecast is for another foot of snow coming in smaller increments this week but should keep things fresh.  Temperatures remain in the 20's all week - perfect!

Need backcountry equipment?  Save $50 on binding mounts when you purchase from us and we will match online prices for identical products.

December 12, 2015


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Post Apocolypse Conditions


It has been a crazy week on the east side of the North Cascades!  We've had a ton of snow, rain, and snow!  All the moisture is great news on all fronts but no one likes the rain in winter!  Good news is that we are cooling off again and have more cold snow in the forecast!  Here are the details:

  • Nordic conditions should improve dramatically by Thursday.  We have had almost 2 feet of snow fall on the valley floor before it turned to rain on Tuesday.  Cooling temperatures should reveal near perfect Nordic skiing before the weekend.
  • Highway 20 is now closed at the Early Winters Gate just 1 mile west of Mazama.  The snow is wet and deep near the valley floor and I would anticipate large debris piles above Cutthroat.
  • WA Pass and Harts Pass both received over 6" of water equivalency in the past week.  The base depth at Washington Pass (5,450 feet) went from 43" to 85".  It rained for several hours on Tuesday up to Pass levels but turned to snow again and at least 16" of snow fell after the rain.
  • We have a forecast for an additional 1-2 feet of snow above 5,000' with colder temps over the next several days.  With some time to settle, the ski conditions should be fantastic for the weekend!
  • This is a huge load on the early season base that was built of facets and crust layers.  Use caution in avalanche terrain.  The good news is that there is plenty of snow to ski in the trees now!

As always, give us a call with questions or observations.

And if you want the Goat's Beard to remain in business, shop local for things you need.  We will match prices for identical size/model to encourage you to NOT shop online!

November 29, 2015


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Local Conditions Thanksgiving 2015

The east side of the North Cascades has been very fortunate this season with good early snow. Here is the latest:

Nordic: Methow Trails has groomed all of the Nordic trails around Mazama.  The best conditions can be found in the open meadows.  Sections of trail that are under trees have less snow and do not have classic tracks in most cases.  Conditions are about as good as you could hope for in November although, to be honest, it isn't awesome - just pretty good.  More snow in the forecast for this week though...

Roads: Highway 20 is still plowed 7 miles west from Mazama to Silverstar gate.  The snowmobiling is easy cruising all the way to Rainy Pass.

Harts Pass is well packed but the gate at the bottom is closed and requires a tight move to go around with a sled and there is a downed tree that also requires a tricky move.  Dead horse point is no problem.

Backcountry Skiing: Pretty good coverage for skiing although it isn't hero snow out there.  42" base at WA Pass and 40" at Harts Pass.  We still have the rain crust up to 6,300' and west aspects were wind affected.  Best skiing is on east aspects and protected north aspects.  You will find 3-4" of low density snow on a firm base above 6,300'.  We have had temperature inversions so its been above freezing over 6,500'.  People are still coming back with grins from early season turns.

Ice Climbing: I haven't had any direct reports from climbers yet but Gate Creek looks to be in which leads me to suspect the Standard and Czech Gully could be in as well.  It has stayed below freezing on the valley floor for about a week now which should create some good ice.

Let us know if you have any good information for us to share. 

And please think of us if you have any gear needs.  Its hard to compete with online shopping but we're trying!