This page presents a reverse-chronological history of this website and my ski mountaineering "career"
since 1996. It was created in May 2001 when the website moved to its permanent address at
www.skimountaineer.com. I have since gone back and updated many portions of the history, using my
notes and archived older versions of the site. A historical summary of this website's
monthly access statistics can be found at the bottom of this page.
The sudden reversal of the dire snowpack situation in the northern Cascades since mid-March means that there
should be enough snow cover during the spring to ski and research numerous more routes for the upcoming
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes guidebook. I had almost given up the
spring season as lost (at least in terms of being able to ski many new routes), but now there is hope. This
should be the final season of research needed for the book. Additional updates here later . . .
The real news this month was the unprecedented bleak condition of the snowpack in the northern half of the
Cascade Range. By March 1, snowdepths throughout northern OR, WA, and southwestern BC had dropped to record
lows, even shattering previous low marks at sites such as Mount Baker Ski Area and Mount Rainier Paradise with
80-90 years of weather data. Meanwhile, the snowpack in the CA Cascades remained near normal. The first half
of March continued the dry pattern, and by March 15 the region of record low snowdepths had expanded farther
north into BC and farther south into OR, covering a 500-mile length along the Cascades. The ski season seemed
to be over in this region, with snow cover looking like late June or early July of a normal year. Thankfully, a
major change in the weather pattern occurred in the latter half of the month, bringing massive amounts of snow
and returning many areas to winter-like conditions. Although the snowpack remains below normal, the additional
snow will probably extend the spring ski season by 1-2 months throughout the region.
As part of my ongoing research into Cascades snow climatology, I had long wanted to gain a historical
perspective on snowpack patterns for each season over the past several decades. After manually collecting and
plotting data for the past quarter-century over the entire length of the Cascade Range (see
Cascade Snowfall and Snowdepth Summaries: 1980-2005), I wanted
some way of automating the process. Using the semimonthly data set I had acquired from the Northwest Weather
and Avalanche Center, I wrote a custom plotting program using PHP and the GD graphics library to display the
snowdepth data for any season or site in the data set, back to 1916 and including many key measurement sites in
WA and OR (see Historical NWAC Snowdepth Plots). Another similar
program was written to show combined snowfall/snowdepth plots at
Mount Rainier Paradise & Crater Lake.
The number of visitors to this website has been growing steadily since it was founded, doubling every 1-2 years.
Meanwhile, the web hosting provider which had hosted the site since May 2001 had provided only a single modest
increase in monthly bandwidth over the past three and half years. By the fall of 2004, the site was nearing its
bandwidth limit each month, so it was finally time to move to a new web host. After much research (and an
inability to find a local Seattle-area web host with acceptable value), I settled on California-based
DreamHost. After getting the site completely
set-up and operational on the new server (especially ensuring that all PHP and MySQL pages were working
properly), on January 23 the DNS info was changed and the new website went live. It appears that the transition
was seamless, and there was no significant downtime during the process.
The early start to the snow year with heavy snowfall in October meant that my
semimonthly snowpack reports would have to start on November 1, a
month earlier than last year. Extensive research and analysis of snowpack data throughout the Cascades
continued, including a study of Cascades Snowfall and Snowdepth during
El Niño and La Niña and a major expansion of the historical snowpack info.
October marked a return to nearly full-time work on the Skiing the Cascade
Volcanoes guidebook, along with a few more hiking trips on routes which might be of interest for the book.
By summer's end I had skied or climbed over 120 routes on all 28 of the Cascade volcanoes included in the book.
An otherwise forgettable ski trip to Paradise in marginal weather near the end of the month brought my ski
streak to 36 consecutive months.
By early August most routes in the Cascades were becoming unskiable, except the old year-round standbys on
Rainier and Baker which I had skied numerous times before. Although I continued my streak of consecutive ski
months with a few trips to permanent snowfields, it was time to switch to hiking mode in order to continue doing
productive research for the guidebook. I hiked and climbed numerous routes on many different volcanoes,
including ascents of a number of mid-sized Cascade volcanoes which missed the cut for the book. Exploring these
routes during the late summer is useful for scouting out ski possibilities for next winter and spring. Also,
some routes are simply better as summer hikes, such as those with interesting geological or volcanological
features which would otherwise be hidden by snow. One particular highlight was a circumnavigation of Mount
Saint Helens via the Loowit Trail in August, just weeks before the volcano rumbled back to life for the first
time since 1986 and was closed to all hiking and climbing by late September. Early and mid September did bring
heavy snowfall above 6000 ft in Washington, providing the best September ski conditions since 1997.
||Disappointingly poor weather along with several scheduling conflicts limited the number of ski trips this month.
The only major accomplishments were a ski loop/traverse of Mount Adams via the Gotchen and Mazama Glaciers to the
Southwest Chutes, and a complete summit ski descent of Rainier via the Emmons-Winthrop Glaciers as the month
drew to a close. Numerous planned ski descents of Rainier had never left town this year (and in 2002 and 2003),
thwarted by weather and partners' schedules, so it was very satisfying to finally ski it from the top again for
the first time in 5 years.
Another very productive month began with a trip to the north side of Mount Adams, during which I participated
in a probable first ski descent of the south lobe of the Lyman Glacier. A pair of trips through Oregon and
California included two more ski descents of Mount Shasta, making it 4 ski descents of Shasta by 4 different
routes in less than 3 months. Other highlights included ski descents of the White Salmon-Avalanche Glacier
route on Adams, along with the northeast faces of Lassen and McLoughlin. During the month I skied or climbed
over a dozen more routes which were new for me on the Cascade volcanoes.
||The month began with another trip down to Mount Shasta, as I skied the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge and upper Bolam Glacier
from the summit solo in one day. This was one of the finest day trips I've ever had, a spectacular route on
Shasta's north side with 7200 vertical feet of continuous ski descent from the summit down to the North Gate
trailhead. It was my second summit ski of Shasta in 3 weeks (the previous one in April had been via Avalanche
Gulch and Red Banks Bowl). But the really big news this month was the completion of one of my major goals,
skiing at least one route on each of the 28 volcanoes included in my Skiing
the Cascade Volcanoes guidebook. I finally managed to ski routes on the two northernmost Cascade volcanoes,
Mount Meager and Mount Cayley in British Columbia, despite the difficult road access this year due to debris
flows and washouts. As of late-May, I have now skied or climbed over 90 routes on all 28 of the Cascade
volcanoes included in the book.
||The spring ski mountaineering season began in earnest, as I completed numerous excellent trips including a ski
circumnavigation of Newberry Crater and ski descents of Eldorado Peak, Saint Helens, Hood, McLoughlin,
and Shasta, among others. Field research was also done for road and trail access to several less-well-known
routes on various Cascade volcanoes in southern Oregon and California.
|Feb - March 2004:
||Efforts were directed back towards the Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes
section, as several pages were revised and updated. Regular semimonthly updates for the
Cascade Snowfall and Snowdepth page continued, while a new PHP-based
Sunrise / Sunset Calculator for the Cascade volcanoes was added.
This tool should be quite useful for properly timing ski descents during the spring and summer corn-snow seasons.
Research efforts for the Cascades guidebook also resumed, both in the field and also in the library and online.
||Continuing the behind-the-scenes improvements from December 2003, the Ring of
Fire section was also upgraded to use MySQL and PHP scripts. This was a major task which took several weeks,
and involved manually entering the information from over 250 separate volcano pages into a single database
(implementing an automatic conversion program would have been even more time-consuming). During the course of
this task, major revisions and updates were made throughout this section. 14 new volcanoes were added in South
America (mostly in the southern Andes) along with one in Alaska, and the pages in the Japan-China-Korea section
were heavily revised. Photos were found and added for those volcanoes which were still missing them (all 272
volcano pages now have a photo).
||Big News: The Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes section of the website was
upgraded to use a MySQL database and PHP scripts to dynamically generate and serve the pages for each individual
volcano. This long-awaited behind-the-scenes improvement should result in significantly easier updating of the
content of the website. I had been planning to make this change for several years, but could never find the
time or motivation to begin what seemed like a monumental task. However, learning PHP and MySQL turned out to
be very quick and easy, and getting the database up and running took less than a week. PHP is an extremely
useful language for website development, and I plan to use it to dynamically generate numerous other pages
throughout the website. The first such pages include a Sortable
Comparison Chart and Distance Calculator for the Cascade
||A new round of extensive updates to the website begins. The Cascade
Snowfall and Snowdepth is updated to included data for the new 2003-2004 season, while the
Ski Mountaineering Links page expands to include over 450 total links.
|Sept - Oct 2003:
||Work on the guidebook resumes at a modest pace, including another long research trip down to Oregon and
California to hike various routes on foot which I had not yet managed to ski (the skiable snow was long
gone by now in this region, even on Shasta and Lassen). In late October, a fine day of skiing spring-like
corn snow on the Muir Snowfield extended my consecutive ski-months streak to a modest total of 24 months.
But it's clearly time to get motivated and really crank up the pace of research and writing if I want to
finish the guidebook anytime soon.
|June - July 2003:
||Lots of ski mountaineering in the Cascades, including two major trips all the way through Oregon and down to
Shasta and Lassen in California, trying to ski primarily those peaks and routes which I had previously missed.
Numerous reports from these trips have been posted to the bulletin board at
Turns-All-Year. As of the end of this period, I
had skied at least one route on 26 of the 28 volcanoes included in my Skiing
the Cascade Volcanoes guidebook, with a total of over 75 different routes skied or climbed. Yet somehow
circumstances conspired to prevent me from skiing anything on my last two remaining volcanoes, Mounts Meager and
Cayley in BC. Wait till next year, I guess.
||Work on the website and guidebook ground to a halt, but ski mountaineering began in earnest for the year.
Attending a physics conference in Boulder in May gave me an excuse to hit the Colorado Rockies, beginning
with a car-assisted ski descent of 14262' Mount Evans on the last day of the conference. Then my old friend
Alex Cronin and I knocked off four 14ers in the next three days, all of which were ski ascents and descents
from the true summit. Grays and Torreys Peaks went on the first day, followed by 14433' Mount Elbert
(highest in CO) and Quandary Peak the next two days. It was a great change of pace to experience some of
the best of the Rockies after spending so much time concentrating on the Cascades the past few years.
|March - April 2003:
||Extensive updates were made to many areas of the website, especially the Ring
of Fire section. Numerous additions to the Ski Mountaineering Links
page brought the total number of links to over 350. A complete restructuring and revision of the North
America pages was undertaken, starting with the removal of all old pages which had been superseded by the
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes section. Numerous skiable volcanoes in
Alaska, British Columbia, Arizona, and New Mexico were added to the reorganized section. As with previously
updated areas of the world, topographic maps were added for every mountain along with improved photos and web
links. The regional introductory pages and maps for Alaska & Northwest Canada and the Western United States &
Canada were heavily revised. Work also continued intermittently on the Cascade ski guidebook. In conjunction
with this, I finally collected all of the available current snowpack data for the entire Cascade Range (CA, OR,
WA, BC) on the Cascade Snowfall and Snowdepth page. Month-by-month
data throughout the snow year is posted on the 2002-2003 Snow Season
||Completed the revision and expansion of over 80 pages in the Skiing the Ring
of Fire and Beyond section, covering the areas of Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, Oceania,
and Antarctica. 18 new volcanoes (skiable or potentially skiable) were added during this revision.
Topographic maps have now been added to the page for each and every mountain, with improved photos and
useful web links also added for most of them. The regional introductory pages and maps for each of these
areas were also heavily revised.
||Numerous updates were made this month. Most significantly, the first major updates were made to the
Skiing the Ring of Fire and Beyond section since late 2000, concentrating
on areas such as Iceland and the Middle East (other parts of this section are still to be updated).
Also updated: Ski Mountaineering Books and various pages in the
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes section.
||The first major updates to the Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes
section of the site in about two years. This included adding two more volcanoes to the online
guidebook, bringing the total number up to 28, which is most likely the final count. Added a new
page on Cascade Snowfall and Snowdepth, with various
interesting data and plots. Also, extensively revised and expanded the
Cascade Volcano WebCams page and my
Ski Mountaineering Links page.
||Spectacular sunny weather and surprisingly good snow / crevasse conditions on glaciers in the
North Cascades made this a memorable month for ski mountaineering trips, my best October ever
despite the lack of new snow. I resumed work on the website and book late in the month as the
weather finally worsened.
|Aug - Sept 2002:
||Instead of working on the website, I took advantage of my free time to make a nearly 3-week drive
to Alaska, passing through northern BC on the Cassiar Highway before joining the Alaska Highway
in the Yukon. I drove through Fairbanks all the way to Deadhorse on the Arctic Ocean, nearly
3000 road miles from Seattle, before heading south to Denali Park and Anchorage. My first visit
to Alaska was spectacular, and I may post a selection of photos on this site at some point.
By the time I returned to Seattle in early September (via a brief detour to Jasper and Banff), my car had
aged by 7800 miles, including over 800 miles on gravel roads resulting in 2 flat tires.
||Unfortunately, most of July was spent on two lengthy trips to the East Coast. But in between,
I finally managed to ski Glacier Peak from the summit
(actually from a snow ridge even higher than the true summit), despite the rapidly melting snowpack.
Glacier Peak was the last remaining major Cascade volcano which I had not skied, the others still
remaining are comparatively minor and none is skiable from the top.
|April - June 2002:
||Continuing on south from Crater Lake, I skied routes on
Shasta, Lassen, and other volcanoes in
northern California and southern Oregon over the next week. Numerous other (often lengthy) trips
followed, as I attempted to ski routes on all of the remaining volcanoes in the guidebook, although
poor weather in May and a lack of partners on the longer trips made achieving all of the planned
goals difficult. Nevertheless, by June I had skied routes on 23 of the volcanoes in the book, 15
of those from the top. Only a few more left to go . . .
|March 30, 2002:
||Having finally wrapped things in the lab the day before (2 weeks after I should have),
I drove down to Crater Lake to catch a summer-like
high-pressure system which had roasted the southern Cascades for over a week. My first backcountry ski
trip of the year was a 3-day solo circumnavigation of Crater Lake, during which the weather was stunningly
perfect and yet I did not see a single other person for over 48 hours.
|Jan - March 2002:
||Occasional updates to various sections of the website. Unfortunately, I was also extremely busy wrapping
up numerous things at work, in anticipation of taking a lengthy leave my job as a postdoc on March 15 to work
full-time on the Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes guidebook for the
rest of 2002. Th big news was that I purchased a new digicam for use on the guidebook, the Canon PowerShot
S40 with 4.0 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom. All photos on this website since March 2002 have been taken
with this exceptionally rugged and compact camera.
||After a nearly one-year hiatus, work finally resumed on this website. I realized that since the new
place I moved into had a fine view of Glacier Peak in the distance beyond Lake Union, I should
construct my own webcam system. The Seattle / Glacier Peak WebCam
was set up in a flash, going online on December 9 less than a week after I first conceived of the
idea. As far as I know, this is the only webcam online with a view of Glacier Peak.
|June 9, 2001:
||Having completed and handed in my dissertation the previous day, I finally graduated from the UW with my
PhD. Work should have resumed on this website and the Cascade volcano ski guidebook, but did not due
to several factors (including a near-record low snowpack, my new job as a postdoctoral Research
Associate at the UW, and searching for a new place to live so I could move out of my crummy apartment).
|May 28, 2001:
||This website was finally moved from the University of Washington servers to its permanent home
here at www.skimountaineer.com!
This Site News and History page was created.
|May 8, 2001:
||At long last, I passed my PhD Final Examination! Life slowly began to return to normal . . .
although the dissertation was still not quite done.
|Jan - May 2001:
||All work on this website was completely halted in order to work 7 days a week, day and night,
on my PhD dissertation.
||Extensive updates to the Ski Mountaineering Information
section: revised and expanded review of equipment, updated book reviews, and greatly expanded
ski mountaineering web links page.
|Oct - Dec 2000:
||Nearly full-time work researching and writing the
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes section.
The written version of the guidebook in FrameMaker grew to over 300 pages, although
numerous portions within this remained only partially complete.
||A new attempt was made at converting the Cascade volcanoes section into a paper guidebook
using Adobe FrameMaker. This was an immediate and complete success, since FrameMaker is
extremely easy to learn and is ideally suited to the task of producing a guidebook.
|June - July 2000:
||Several more long ski mountaineering trips on the volcanoes, including another week-long jaunt
through Oregon and northern California. Overall, by mid-July 2000 I had skied routes on 16 of the
Cascade volcanoes, including 13 from the summit.
||Initial attempts were made to convert the
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes section of this website into
a paper guidebook using LaTeX. This eventually led only to frustration, since LaTeX is totally
unsuited for guidebook production (although it is an excellent system for writing technical books).
Visual formatting is nearly impossible to do in LaTeX, but it is essential for a guidebook
full of photos and maps.
||Created a new page called Cascade Volcano WebCams,
which shows live views of weather conditions throughout the Cascades. This page grew steadily
from its modest beginnings, eventually including webcams showing numerous other skiable volcanoes
in the US beyond the Cascade Range.
||During a family visit to India, I worked offline on the Ring of Fire
section of the website on my laptop computer. Phase One of this section (which means producing
single pages with a photo and minimal info for each of the over 250 peaks included) was
substantially completed during this time. It was uploaded to the web upon my return to the US
(and to a high-speed internet connection). At this point, no further work was planned
on the Ring of Fire section (except minor corrections if needed) until the Cascade ski guidebook
is substantially completed.
||It was finally time to go all-digital: I purchased my first digicam, the Canon PowerShot A50 with
1.3 megapixels and a 2.5x optical zoom. Digital photography was a real revolution for me, freed at last
from the expense and hassle of developing and scanning photos. High-capacity memory cards allowed
hundreds of photos per trip instead of dozens, which was both a blessing (no need to save up film for better
shots) and a curse (too many photos to sift through at home). All photos on this website taken since early
2000 are digital.
||Following the trip to the southern Cascades and the ski descent of Mount Rainier,
I had a true epiphany: I realized that the single largest remaining gap in the North American
mountaineering literature is a comprehensive guidebook to ski mountaineering on the Cascade
volcanoes. In addition, I recognized that I now had the skills, experience, and desire
to attempt to fill this gap. Thus work began in earnest on the fourth section of this website,
Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes.
|July 9-11, 1999:
||I finally got the Big One done. My first ski descent of Mount Rainier,
from the true summit via the Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers. The massive snowpack this year makes
the route exceptionally safe and skiable, with almost no crevasse hazard (only 1 significant
crevasse on the entire route, the bergschrund itself). The nearly 9000 feet of skiable vertical
is still the most I have done on any single ski mountaineering trip.
|June 17-24, 1999:
||My first ski mountaineering trip to the southern Cascades, during
which I skied Lassen, Shasta, McLoughlin, Thielsen, and South Sister with my friend Alex Cronin.
An amazing trip with great weather until the rains hit on the final day. I had now skied routes
on 10 of the Cascade volcanoes, with 8 of those descents made from the summit. On the summit of
Mount McLoughlin, Alex and I first discussed the idea of writing a Cascade volcano ski guidebook.
|April 3, 1999:
||Planning ahead for the future, I registered the domain name "skimountaineer.com" in
anticipation of eventually moving this website off the University of Washington
web server following the completion of my PhD.
||A season to remember, with constant rain in Seattle (nearly 90 consecutive days with precip) and
world-record amounts of snow in the mountains. Almost 100 feet of snowfall produced a 30 foot
base by April on Mount Baker, with Rainier just a shade behind those numbers. The record snowfall
extended south all the way to Mount Bachelor, with the southern Oregon and northern California
Cascades missing out on record amounts but still enjoying a well-above-average snowpack.
||Extensive library research on volcanoes of the Ring of Fire and beyond, attempting to discern which
of these peaks are skiable at all and also which have been skied. My personal
Trip Reports section also continued to see steady growth as I
completed several more volcano ascents and ski descents in the Cascades.
||On consecutive beautiful sunny weekends, I made my first climbs of Mount Rainier
and Glacier Peak, both on foot only (no skis). I found Rainier quite easy, since I tend to do well at
altitude, but Glacier Peak was considerably more demanding due to the long, up-and-down approach trail.
The vertical gain of about 10000 ft on Glacier Peak (counting ups-and-downs) easily exceeds the
9000 ft gain on Rainier, and the total mileage is also nearly double.
|April 30, 1998:
||Summit ski descent of Mount Hood via the standard South Side route.
This was the most technically challenging volcano ski descent I had yet done, since the bergschrund
on the Hogsback was wide open and any fall near the Pearly Gates would likely have had severe
||Work began on the third section of the website,
Skiing the Pacific Ring of Fire and Beyond.
This marked the beginning of a lifelong project in which I hope to ski many of the great volcanoes
of the world (and to collect information and document those trips for posterity).
|Jan - March 1998:
||The website grew steadily. Initially it had only 2 sections, Trip Reports and
Ski Mountaineering Information (with equipment and book reviews).
|November 7, 1997:
||This website was founded, hosted on the University of Washington student web server.
I began to learn HTML and did all coding manually with a text editor. This method
of producing web pages continues to be my method of choice to the present day.
|September 20, 1997:
||A late-summer trip to Camp Muir found surprisingly smooth and fine ski conditions. Having thus skied
for 12 consecutive months, I decided to halt the streak to avoid having it turn into an obsession.
It's a decision which I still regret somewhat, but it was the right one at the time given the ongoing
demands of graduate school and my PhD research.
|June - August 1997:
||After finally recovering from a lengthy period of exhaustion and illness, I undertook my first
major volcano trip, a complete ski ascent and descent of Mount Adams
on June 7-8, with that winter's huge snowpack still blocking the road many miles from the
trailhead. Numerous other ski mountaineering trips followed, culminating in a
ski descent of Mount Baker via the Easton Glacier on August 2-3.
|April 5-6, 1997:
||My first volcano ski ascent and descent, Mount Saint Helens via the Worm Flows route, despite
having been quite ill for the previous few weeks and thus moving at a grandma's pace.
Comet Hale-Bopp and its twin tails were visible just above and west of the crater rim
as seen from our timberline camp, but neither my friend nor I had a camera to capture
the spectacle. I resolved to buy a camera immediately and soon purchased a Canon SureShot
105 Zoom, with which most images on this website were taken through early 2000.
|October 27, 1996:
||My first trip using randonnee (alpine touring) gear, borrowed from a friend. I again chose
the Muir Snowfield, skinning up all the way from the parking lot to Camp Muir on a surprisingly
deep early-season snowpack and with superb clear weather. Within a couple weeks after this trip,
following extensive research since the summer, I bought a complete set of my own alpine touring gear.
|June 29, 1996:
||My first backcountry ski trip. Carrying up my alpine skis and boots, I decided to do a solo trip to
Camp Muir at 10000 ft on Mount Rainier (with about 200 others on the snowfield). It was a perfectly
sunny June day with awe-inspiring scenery, and the ski descent on exceptionally fine corn snow was well
worth the long hours of toil on the ascent. This trip had a profound effect on me, and it is one of the few
life-changing experiences I have ever had. Ski mountaineering rapidly became a focus of my life over that