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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Shredding during the summertime

In the Pacific Northwest, winter sports go year-round. A decrease in the amount of snow at Mount Baker isn’t slowing down students who still want to ski or snowboard.

Western students are using their summer vacation to get up to Mount Baker for skiing and snowboarding. The exposure to different conditions makes for a whole new experience.

Western junior Dustin Watson thinks summer skiing can be just as good as in the winter, especially for those who may not enjoy the harsh weather that comes with winter.

“I think it’s honestly more fun sometimes,” Watson said. “You are comfortable, you’re in a T-shirt, you’re not worrying about being cold or getting soaked every day. People are in a good mood when the sun’s out.”

While the weather is nicer, the ski parks have closed for the season. Any attempt to ski or snowboard requires more effort than it would in the typical season when the lift chair takes you right to your destination.

Dustin Watson carving down Mount Hood in Oregon in August 2016. // Photo by Alex Rupp


For sophomore Danielle Spady, deciding when to stop hiking and finally make a run back down is an important factor.

“We just hike until we get tired,” Spady said. “Then, we have a little snack break and decide if we want to hike more or if we want to finally get on our boards because it’s a two-hour hike for 45 seconds to a minute ride.”

Another difference from the winter conditions is the gear required to ski or snowboard. Skiers need not only the equipment for riding, but tools for the hike as well.

Junior Claire Bickford, Associated Students Outdoor Center Equipment Shop coordinator, said the most popular rentals this summer have been for mountain hiking.

“We’ve had a ton of mountaineering equipment renting out,” Bickford said. “Lots of crampons, ice axes and mountaineering boots — everything you would need to walk up Baker, Adams or Mount St. Helens. A lot of people are doing the volcanoes.”

Despite the more rigorous summer conditions, students like Spady find the hike to snowboard worth it because of their passion for riding.

“I’m obsessed with snowboarding, so I’ll do anything it takes to get a ride or be able to strap my board on,” Spady said.

With the equipment available to students, skiing and snowboarding become not just seasonal sports, but activities that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

“I’m obsessed with snowboarding, so I’ll do anything it takes to get a ride or be able to strap my board on.”

Danielle Spady, sophomore & snowboarder

Watson, who is also the president of Western’s Ski & Snowboard Club, said a lot of people still just think of it as a seasonal sport.

“It’s not what most people think about when they think of skiing and snowboarding,” Watson said. “They think of it as [just] a wintertime sport when really, especially around here, it’s not.”

Being in an area that allows activities like skiing and snowboarding in the summertime is not lost on people like Spady and Watson.

Through the ski and snowboard club, Spady and Watson are organizing a group to go up to Mount Baker July 29 to conduct a cleanup of the area.

“Someone’s got to do it,” Spady said. “So we might as well make a cool event out of it and get other people excited about cleaning up, because if it gets dirty, we’ll regret it.”

Watson said he feels an obligation to preserve the area because he gets to enjoy its natural beauty on a constant basis as a resident, and he wants to keep it that way.

“A lot of people drive up to Artist Point with their friends or family for a day and they might never come back. But us, we’re out there all the time,” Watson said. “It’s really our home away from home, and if we want to keep that as a place we can continue to go to and continue to appreciate the natural beauty that exists there, it’s going to be up to us to preserve.”

Bickford also said the Outdoor Center is working to procure more skis and have all the proper equipment so students can enjoy the summertime slopes.


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