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Lava Laps: Spring Skiing And Riding On Northwest Volcanoes

Spring-Timberline-Park The Northwest has volcanic cones like Mt. Hood that give skiers and riders plenty of choice in aspect to find the best conditions during the spring. (Timberline Lodge)

Now that spring has hit the West, the place to go this season is the Pacific Northwest with its nation-leading snowpack on the slopes of the high-elevation dormant volcanoes.

When asked where to go for best spring conditions, PowderChasers Luke Stone immediately said to head to the volcanic cones of Washington and Oregon -- America's portion of the volatile Pacific Rim.

"They are open longer, above treeline terrain is hit by sunlight, and all variety of aspects," Stone told SnoCountry.com.

Created by consecutive sub-freezing nights and warm days, corn snow is the gold standard of spring conditions. Because of their conical shape and lower treelines, volcanic mountains of the Northwest create as much corn as anywhere because of the variety of compass points their slopes face. The means warm days changes conditions often by the hours, and skiers and riders have to "play the mountain" to get the best conditions -- and avoid the sloppiest.

Tops on Stone's list was Mount Bachelor in eastern Oregon. From the 9,000-foot summit, lines can be had down all 360 degrees. Spring's mellow weather means Summit Chair is open for 1,700 vertical above treeline. Because of the circular aspect, skiers and riders can find all manner of conditions depending upon time of day, exposure and temperatures. If it's corn snow you want, Bachelor mostly likely will have ... and at different times of the day.

Next is Oregon's 11,240-foot Mt. Hood, where Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline Lodge climb up the southern shoulder of the state's most famous volcano. Aspect trends from south to east

With 1,400 acres and more than 3,000 vertical drop, Timberline stays open year-round, in the summer on its upper Palmer chair above treeline. Narrow layout faces mainly south and southwest, so the daily conditions change according to more to time than aspect.

At Mt. Hood Meadows, lifts top out at 7,300 feet but hikeable to 9,000 feet. Exposure runs from southeast to southwest across 2,150 acres that drops 2,777 vertical feet. Plenty to explore to find ripe snow on what is basically an intermediate mountain.

Back to Washington to 10,777-foot Mt. Baker that looms over Bellingham. The double-peaked Mt. Baker Ski Area sits on the lower skirt between Baker and Mt. Shuksan with east- and northeast-facing terrain. The 1,000-acre ski and snowboard resort with 1,500 vertical drop catches tons of Pacific storms. Spring snow-lovers will find plenty of blacks with varying aspects, as well as a bevy of groomers to carve up the soft stuff.

Several other resorts are located near volcanoes, such as Crystal Mountain across from Mt. Ranier, and Mt. Hood SkiBowl down the road from Timberline.






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