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Long shot of a woman backcountry skiing across snow with a pine forest and snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Skiing the Snowy Mountains to Hiking the Trails in the PNW

This blog post is part of our Discover the Northwest story series where we work with some of our favorite local explorers by asking them to go on an adventure, take over our Instagram Stories and create a blog post about the adventure life. This post was written by Doris Wang, a first generation Chinese-American who didn’t learn to love the outdoors until later in life. From hiking, to backpacking, to learning to be a better skier, she loves exploring the local mountains of Washington.

Long shot of a woman backcountry skiing across snow with a pine forest and snow-capped mountains in the distance.

I didn’t grow up in the PNW, but am about to hit my 5 year moving anniversary in January. I grew up in sunny Orange County, CA. So I have adapted quite a bit over the past 5 years to the weather the PNW brings, the early season snow, the grey and rainy days, and the big ol mountains that run straight through the state of Washington, aka the Cascades. California has some big ol mountains too, but they’re not like the ones in the Pacific Northwest.

When Pyramid reached out to do a weekend takeover of their Instagram account, and a blog post to follow, my mind swirled with a bunch of different ideas. But as the date for the takeover got closer, I decided I wanted to try something new. I wanted to take everyone on a first time adventure with me — learning how to use my backcountry skis. I am not a very good skier, but everyone has to start somewhere!

Learning to ski the backcountry

Woman skiing up a snowy slop with a pine forest and snow-capped mountains in the distance. A ski lift is to the right side of the photo

I bought a backcountry ski setup: skis, backcountry bindings and ski boots (different than downhill ski bindings and resorts because you can detach your heel and kick them into walk mode), skins (traction that attaches to the bottom of your skis, so you can walk uphill on skis), and retractable ski poles back in February. I wanted to try them out earlier in the year, but then COVID happened. So into the closet my ski gear went. But now winter is upon us once again and I am determined to learn how to ski in the backcountry.

Ultimately my goal is to do an overnight on my skis, head out with backpacking gear and skis, and camp out for a night somewhere. These are the steps I’m taking to reach my backcountry ski goals.

Step 1:

Obtain all the gear and sign up for an AIARE course. AIARE is an avalanche safety course that teaches you how to safely travel in the backcountry, learn how to read avalanche conditions, and teach you how to use a beacon, probe and shovel, and dig someone out of an avalanche. I have yet to take the course, but I am signed up for it in January, so I do not plan on skiing in avalanche prone areas until I have taken this course. Safety is important to me, so I do not feel comfortable going deep into the backcountry without proper knowledge of how to read avalanche terrain and how to use a beacon, probe, and shovel correctly!

Step 2:

Practice skiing with my backcountry setup. We headed out to Snoqualmie Pass and skinned up from a closed lift chair and skied down a couple times. I learned how to use my bindings, transitioning them from uphill travel to downhill skiing, and how to transition in and out of ski skins.

Step 3:

Finding a mentor is definitely very helpful! My friend Angela agreed to take Kaelee and me out to show us the ropes, without her we would have been so lost in using our touring skis! So shout out to Angela for showing us the way!

Doris Wang skiing down a slop with a pine forest and snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Doris Wang and her black labrador pose for a photo with a Pyramid apricot ale on a forest trail, surrounded by pine trees and ferns

Hiking the trails

The day after using my backcountry ski gear we went and hit up a local trail with all the pups in tow. I am way more knowledgeable in hiking than skiing, but I aim to be on the same level with both. When I hike I always try to be more than prepared, with safety in mind as well, and always carry the 10 essentials: navigation, light, sun protection, first aid, knife, fire, shelter, extra food, extra water, and extra clothes. The bonus essential number 11 is definitely a couple cans of beer to enjoy along the way. We always take the pups with us on trail, they can always carry extra water, extra poop bags, and all the dog treats! And of course the dogs can carry the beer too!

A wooden sign post for the May Valley Loop with a can of Pyramid Blazing Bright balanced on top of it. In the background we can see the trail winding up a tree covered hillside.
A black labrador wearing a trail harness looks up at the camera from a leaf covered forest floor. Behind him is a moss covered log with several cans of Pyramid beer resting on it. In the background is a green forest.
A german shepard wearing a trail harness sits on a bench carved out of log. In front of the dogg is a can of Pyramid Blazing Bright. In the background is a green forest.
Photo taken by my friend Andrew

A black labrador sits in the open trunk of an SUV. next to him is a cooler, and between his paws is a can of Pyramid Apricot Ale

There are so many great outdoor adventures near Seattle! Both places I visited over the weekend — Snoqualmie Pass and Squak Mountain State Park — are within a 60 minute drive of Seattle. The PNW is truly a special place!

Thanks for having me Pyramid, until next time.
Doris Wang

@doristheexplorist