A persistent large scale ridge over the Eastern Pacific has been blocking our usual wet westerly flow for the past month, resulting in record low precipitation in central Washington, and an underwhelming start to the winter at Red. In his Dec 31st season progress report, Tony Crocker calculated we’ve only received 65% of our average early season snowfall. Considerably less than many of our regional neighbors to the North, but better off than many. The local snow-pack is still shy of a meter, which in many years would be considered the minimum required to open, but rain on early season snow produced 50 cm of consolidated base, which has proved just enough to keep the mountain skiable. Day by day the grooming gets smoother and more extensive, and if that’s your thing, there’s plenty of fun skiing (in the sun) to be had, but off-piste is another story. At its’ best the terrain at Red is challenging, but with an 80 cm base it gives new meaning to technical skiing. The snow-pack seems thinner on Red and Grey, so I’ve been sticking to the lines I know best on Granite. There are some smooth sections to be enjoyed, and on the 3 cm powder days we’ve been having there are soft consistent turns to be had, but almost every line has a significant section that could best be described as heinous. I keep expecting to encounter unwitting tourists, hemmed in by windfall or perched atop a cliff, wild eyed in terror, but there’s nobody skiing on 90% of the mountain. When I’m skiing with my brother it’s as though we have the place to ourselves. Although I’m tagging rocks every day (sometimes every run) I’m skiing on good skis, rationalizing that I can utilize every advantage available and that I’d rather sacrifice my skis than my body. There’s almost no cruising to be had. You’re working hard through every part of every turn, so the leg burn gets monumental. I’m yet to make it past 6 laps on Granite, but I must be getting stronger.