So do we get extra GNAR points for skiing naked, past 6 hikers that came out of nowhere just as we dropped in, and proceeded to act like they were full-on hallucinating? There must be some bonus points for freaking people out with a BN in a place like a National Park, right? Maybe so maybe not, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s summer, and skiing sans clothing is mandatory for summer snow sliders in the Northern Hemisphere. And in any case, I for surely got some GNAR points from the excessive pole whacking and raddness yell I threw out before the naked lap anyway.
For the travelers out there still stoked on skiing, it’s still happening all throughout the Cascade Range, and if you head far enough north, any adventures you get into in North Cascades National Park (NCP) will be well worth the effort. It’s like being transported to the European Alps, but the thickly stacked forest will remind you that you’re 100% in the heart of the great Pacific Northwest.
NCP is yet another gem of this country’s National Park system. Unlike most of the volcanic peaks littered throughout the range, the mountains in NCP will quickly make you feel like you’re travelling some rickety village road through Switzerland or France. Mountains rise out from the forest floor with immense vertical, and the tops of the high peaks are rugged, jagged, and steep.
My take on skiing in the lower 48 during the summer is more often than not, you’re going to be doing a bunch of walking on dirt. Most of us like going for scenic hikes in the summer as is, so why not carry a heavier pack for the added exercise it brings, and throw in a few turns if you can? In NCP the hiking/backpacking is straight up brilliant right now. Waterfalls are going off, wildflowers are just starting to bloom from all the snow they got up there this winter, and the views from the many accessible trails are mind-blowing. The skiing isn’t too shabby either.
You’d be more stoked to hit up some human serviced turns in the park right after the road opens from Mazama, usually sometime in May or even June, but there’s still a ton of snow to rip up there at present. Looking at this couloir, not much more than a couple of hours hike from the trailhead, I wish we had a little extra time to ski in more parts of the park on our trip.
But we settled for what was most accessible, and after a couple of hours hiking via Rainy Pass, we settled for a few laps backed by some truly breathtaking scenery. We also figured it was a good opportunity to get some BN skiing in. Shane taught us all many things, and one of them that should be taken up by anyone reading this article is that skiing naked is fun. I’m not sure what those random hikers that snuck up on us thought, but I know we for surely had a good time adding a little spice to our already fun adventure that day by making a few turns without all that baggy clothing.
If skiing seems like too much effort at this point in the year, just hiking into the heart of the park is worth the trip from Tahoe or the Bay and then some. Beautiful forest lined trails lead up to high vantage points of these gloriously burly mountains. After a nice hike, or even a few turns, heading east you’ll run into the Blue Lakes Trail. This is a great multi-use trail that makes for a great hike or run, horse ride, or for the chargers out there, a great mountain-bike ride. The uphill is solid, and there’s a bunch of solid sections of trail on the down that are reminiscent of the classic California ride, the Downieville Downhill.
By this time, especially in summer, you’ll be super hot and over the heat after several hours spent sweating in the wilderness. Luckily, the town of Mazama is just a few miles outside the park heading east. The town is basically comprised of a few houses, a gorgeous river to cool off in after your morning/afternoon exploits, one store with a few scattered lodges, and a whole bunch of excellent rock climbing routes. There’s a ton of great climbing up here, and a lot of diversity in the many spectacular routes. You can go big on one of the huge classic lines if you so chose, or just take it easy and go crag some of the numerous, easy-access quality trad/sport routes that range anywhere from 5.4 to 5.hard.
There’s a little something for everyone up in NCP, and it’s a great place to link up the summer trifecta of skiing-mountain biking-climbing in a day. Throw in a perfect alpine river to chill out in, and tons of great spots to camp at, and you have another all-time spot to check out next time you have the chance to spend a little time in Washington.