"It's a bit icy," warned Californian Jim Tobin. "This run should only be skied in powder. But...if...you...are...careful, we'll make it." The face lay glazed in the 10 a.m. sun, glittering at a pitch of about 32�. We pushed off.
A quarter of the way down, I pulled up to look around at the view. Just magnificent. Breathtaking. I was awed. Scared. Below me, Tobin, Peter Paine, Photographer Marvin Newman (who took the photograph at left) and the others stood on their edges, looking back up. They were leaning in tightly to the hill, like the trees. Tobin glanced over at Newman. "I wouldn't turn just there if I were you," he said. "Me?" said Newman. "Me, I can make it." He turned, decorated with cameras, and fell. He began to slide, arms and legs spraddled, like a sky diver. Tobin wheeled quickly, raced below him and then threw himself over Newman's body, and their combined, tangled mass finally brought them to a stop. They got up carefully, having cut their own bobsled run halfway down the hill. It did a lot for my peace of mind.
I wanted a cigarette. But I was afraid to strike a match. Tobin hiked back up and stood guard below while I, like Mrs. Poulsen, kick-turned. Then I hacked my way down the shining run. Halfway, I stood very still, edges bit in, until I got my confidence back. It took all season.
GREEN VALLEY, CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN
The vast Pacific Northwest is populated by skiers who look pretty much like you and me. The same beaten boots, stretch pants and ribbed sweaters, the same driving eagerness to ski. Even now, in Tacoma and in Enumclaw, they stand tuned, hoping for the good year. But similarities end there. There is one vital difference. Nobody, but nobody, is more determined to ski—come rain or come shine—than those of the Pacific Northwest. And all too often, eyebrows dripping, they ski come rain.
It is an unhappy meteorological fact that when winter rains sweep in from the Pacific they soak everything west of the Cascade Range, occasionally turning entire snowfields into a substance like vanilla sherbet. Yet this condition only feeds the fierce fire that lies within Pacific Northwesters, and every skier, cinching the rack on top of his car in his driveway, takes off for the hills with the instincts of a riverboat gambler. For when skiing is good in the umbrella of Mt. Rainier—and that is much of the time, incidentally—it is very, very good.
The view of Rainier alone, rising in 14,408 feet of chill majesty, is worth the gamble. From the 6,877-foot saddle at Crystal Mountain, it is purest bonus: Rainier looks over the shoulder of one of America's top ski runs, the Green Valley.
Seventy-five miles out of Seattle, 1,000 vertical feet up over Snoqualmie National Forest, Green Valley sprawls for 80 acres of bowl, gap, canyon and mogul skiing, as though the run had been edited to include a chapter on everything. There is even powder snow, if you happen to be the first man on the mountain on the right morning. But no matter. Green Valley doesn't need powder.
Understandably, Green Valley is the most popular of Crystal's 8,000 square acres of ski slope, and of all the country's best runs this one has the most glacial mood, perhaps because the upper bowl is so big. From the saddle, where the skier in the accompanying picture is strolling, the Valley spills down into this monster bowl, which has some of the characteristics of Tuckerman's Ravine in the East. Always fatly smallpoxed with moguls, it is a bowl with bump and snap, flattening out into a schuss through the trees. Beyond, the run sails, if you would like, into a section of ridge run. And below that lies still another bowl, a shallower run beneath the lift, all of it heading for a swooshing finish, heady skiing down a slope they call the back side of Exterminator (the front side, they say, will really exterminate you). Over all, through all its swirls, the effect is like skiing through an hourglass. Every run is best made briskly—Pacific cold is damp and penetrating. And if there is fog below, don't worry. The sun surely shines on top.
Rain? Never! Well, almost never. But it's worth the gamble.