VIDEO: BD athlete Zack Giffin and friends in deep at Mount Baker
My first reaction to the news that Mt. Baker is in the path of a seriously pissed-off Northwest storm tract was panic. My trip to Argentina this summer left me without my usual stockpile of funds. I am not ready for winter. Last year the mountain opened on December 13; a full month later. I was counting on another three weeks of work, but here it is a week after Halloween and I'm getting calls from the hommies about the 40" bases with multiple feet on the way and and a November 12 opening day. What? I have responsibilities. Is my boss going to let me just bail out this early? I don’t even have any money saved.
I convince myself that it will be ok to miss out on the unreasonably early season opener. "It will probably be thin and rain two days later" I say with an unsteady chuckle. The Northwest storm machine doesn't just turn off once it's been started; I know this. ure enough by opening day the snow has piled up and there is something like 70" at the base of Mt. Baker. Friends on patrol have been skiing for four days already. Depression sets in.
I try to let it go. Be happy for my brothers and all the deserving people that will be there for this memorable day. It works. It is a beautifully sunny day in Boulder, Colorado. I am at work with my best friends. "I'm on my way," I tell myself “soon enough it will be me up there killing it and then it will be just the start of a long winter. So what am I stressing about?” All day I stay positive, saying thanks for my health and many blessings.
As we wrap things up for the day I get the inevitable call. It is just after five, which means the lifts have just closed on the West Coast. I can already hear my little brother, Sam, saying something like "Ohhhhh Zackers, did it go off today? You sorry, sorry chimper." But his tone is different, almost cautionary as he says "Zack, it was bluebird, stable, and we hit The Arm all day" (The Shuksan Arm is undeniably some of the sickest, easy access terrain around). The air seems to go thin as the ridiculousness of my optimism before becomes obvious. Mt. Baker had opened with unreal conditions, earlier than ever before. People had assembled from all over the country to destroy lines and pillows I normally claim as my own. But the storms are still lined up, so I buy my ticket and arrive four days later, after missing the beginning of the season that I will hear about for the rest of the year.
I arrive to find 20" of new. The next morning there is another 20". The storms have mild breaks, but never really stop, as it proceeds to snow for a week straight. At some point I remember to turn on my helmet camera and get some of the pillow lines and powder fields caught on tape. By the end of the week the deep lines and long days start to blend together the way they do during mid-winter and then I remember "Isn't it Thanksgiving soon?"
— Zack Giffin