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Mt. Baker High

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Mt. Baker
One week at Baker equals a season anywhere elseStory and photo by Molly BakerNorway. Chile. British Columbia. Argentina. Utah. Colorado. Montana. Wyoming. California. Idaho. These are just some of the ski destinations that filled my schedule last season. My ski area Rolodex boasts some of the best. Heli-touring lodges deep in the Canadian wilderness, mountainous fjords far above the Arctic Circle, and Patagonian skies opening with snowfall to cover the rocky and rugged Andes – these are the memories I’ve filed away. They will always be there. Until I get a day of skiing at Mt. Baker in this season. Then these places, the skiing, the mountains, they evaporate. And only one place exists in my fanatical ski-motivated mind – Mt. Baker.

Every fall, amidst trip planning, when the weeks away from home begin to concretely add up,
I am forced to remind myself of what I will miss at Mt. Baker – ideal snow, world-class terrain, great touring partners and a no-frills atmosphere. Is it possible to be homesick while traveling the world to ski? If you live at Mt. Baker, than the answer is absolutely yes.

Take snowfall. Mt. Baker holds the world record for snowfall in one year. During the ’98-’99 winter a total of 1,140 inches fell on the perfect, steep slopes of the ski area. That’s 95 feet.
I wasn’t living in Washington that year, but I’ve found that you don’t need 1,140 inches to exceed expectations in the Cascades. Even just a little layer of white frosting cakes the peaks with enough fun and diversion from the world beyond these mountains to satisfy the skier and snowboarder soul. Even the threat of an average 2012-2013 season due to El Niño weather patterns, I am sure the skiing will still be better than most places in the world. This area is blessed by Ullr.

And even if the snow comes in average quantities (which is above average for most other ski locations in the world), the people satisfy my need for community and they do this with an unparalleled quirkiness tricky to find, at least in this concentration. Tree house dwelling ski bums, longtime locals, and the influx of college students from Western Washington University create a hodge-podge of personalities with one simple goal: to enjoy the fruitful offerings of Koma Kulshan and the surrounding mountains. A 50-year-old lawyer’s passion is the same as that of a 23-year-old college graduate’s. They are skiers and snowboarders that subscribe to the mountain and its powers to find sanity, excitement or a reason to tolerate all the rain in Bellingham. They’re all a part of the Mt. Baker tribe.

A relatively predictable snowpack, potential glances of Mt. Shuksan and its hanging glacier in between storms, the annual Banked Slalom, après in the Tap Room followed by dinner at Milano’s, unexplored mountains just beyond your gaping eyes – the list of Mt. Baker’s attributes is endless.

All I need is one week there this year because one week at Mt. Baker is equal to an entire season somewhere else. X