Mount Rainier Winter Ski Conditions - 2008

Reflection and Louise Lakes--March 7

On March 7, I skied to Reflection Lake via Narada Falls and Inspiration Point.

I had not been to Reflection Lakes in years and never in winter. I have a vague summer memory of being attacked by hungy birds there, but
maybe I was somewhere else in the park.

I've seen so many pictures of this famous lake that I can't actually remember if I've ever been there in person or not. (I forgot my camera so you'll have to content yourself with this photo from

Whatever my previous experience, I loved going there in winter. We had the place to ourselves (it was a Friday) and it was snowy and serene, with peekaboo views of the mountain -- all a mellowish mile and a half from the Paradise road.

We didn't get to see the famous "reflection" but you can see that in summer when there are a gazillion people there (who drive, rather than ski, in). This time of year there are almost more animal tracks than people prints -- though we did see some snowhoe tracks and a couple skin tracks heading up towards Castle Saddle.

We looked at them longingly but the snow was uninviting for turns that day except in the forest. We also debated skiing down to Louise Lake, but it just didn't seem worth it with the crusty, wind-scoured snow. At least there was a nice litle powder stash in the forest below Inspiration Point on the way back to Barn Flats, and skiing back to Narada Falls from there was fun too.

We ended the day with dinner in the National Park Inn. Tasty, although the service was a bit slow (ahem!). All in all, a great mellow afternoon and evening at the mountain that I would recommend to anyone seeking an easy-to-find dose of winter solitude.

Mazama Ridge -- February 28th

Rebecca and I got to do a quick tour of Mazama Ridge today from Paradise. The weather was very warm and springlike, a little odd for this time of year. The ski across Edith Basin was very fast. The skis weren't sinking more than an inch or two but there was a thin breakable crust. (Photo -- Edith Creek Basin. Note the avalanche fracture.)

We then proceeded straight up to the ridge crest at 6400 feet. The southwest aspects of the ridge were very firm with about an inch of pretty good corn on the surface. Skinning was a little tricky in the steeper areas so we booted the last 100 feet or so.

Skiing down the ridge was entertaining with a breakable crust on the eastern aspects and good corn on the sun-baked southwest side. Once we dropped into the Paradise River drainage it was all very soft and fun, reminiscent of a hot April day. A short skin up the Paradise Valley road led us back to Paradise. It was a nice short tour (about 2 1/2 hours).

I would not recommend this tour on a day when the avalanche danger is higher. The exposure in Edith Creek basin is very bad. The danger today was low, a good day for Mazama Ridge. We are expecting some snow Friday night and Saturday, maybe as much as a foot. Hopefully winter will return for us in March. It has a habit of doing so. Keep checking back for the latest reports. (Photo - On Mazama Ridge. Note evidence of Rebecca's wipeout on the "entertaining" breakable crust near top of slope.)

~ Chris Olson

In General at Mount Rainier - Feb. 11th

Things aren't so grand. The road to Paradise is closed (from Longmire up) and the avalanche hazard has consistently hovered between high to extreme. Though things have settled down with the latest warm trend, the road to Paradise will likely remain closed through President's Day weekend. You should find another place to hang out if you intend to ski or climbing the backcountry. Rainier just isn't "in" right now.

Eagle Peak Trip Report - January 29.

The park is finally getting some snow after a long dry spell. In fact, the last two days it has been dumping and the southern Cascades are getting hit the hardest in the state. We should have close to two feet of new snow by Wednesday morning. The visibility in the Paradise area has been awful so I didn't get to ski up there but I did skin part way up the Eagle Peak trail (near Longmire) this afternoon.

The new snow had a relatively low density for being so low in elevation and breaking trail was easy. There was about eight inches of accumulation under the dense canopy and quite a bit more in the treeless patches. The crust underneath is hard but there was just enough fresh snow so I rarely felt it.

I took my skins off as it turned dark and was forced to follow my tracks back down with the light of my headlamp. It felt like a bobsled run in the dark--a good way to hit trees if you get going too fast. I made it unscathed am looking forward to lots of good snow this week.

The park is setting up for some very high, possibly extreme avalanche conditions so refer to the latest forecast before making your trip up here.

~ Chris Olson

Paradise ski report - January 24

The ski conditions between Panorama Point and Paradise are not very good at the moment. A week of high pressure along with direct sun and cold east wind has left us with no soft snow. In fact, in many places today it was simply a sheet of ice. I also encountered hard wind pack, breakable crust and all sorts of anoying wind lips and ridges. Some of the west facing slopes (below Mazama Ridge for example) may have some soft wind-deposited snow but I didn't get a chance to explore those areas. There is still some soft snow in the trees below Paradise. We need some new snow to freshen things up a bit around and above tree line. If you're willing to explore a bit, though, you may find some good snow.

I did not encounter any signs of recent avalanche activity between Paradise and Panorama Point. However, numerous recent avalanches are visible on the upper mountain and Nisqually Glacier. Some of the cornices in the Paradise vicinity are getting very large as well, so watch out for those. They tend to hang over steep eastern slopes. Always refer to the
Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center for current conditions before heading out.

~ Chris Olson