I don't remember all the details from
the ten to twelve times I skied Pilchuck, butů
We drove up to the Mount Pilchuck lodge
from the right, as looking uphill. Trails went to the left, as looking
around the lodge, the road, and the parking lots. If we wanted to ski down from the upper slopes to the lower, we
were facing down (of course) so we skied to the right, and passed the base area with the lodge, road, and parking lots
to our left. The slopes below the lodge were easier, with more constant grades. We didn't ski them much, except the
first run of the day. The beginner chair had two unloading stations, one below the access road and parking lots, and
one above. The lodge and the ticket window were on the downhill side of the access road and parking lot. The upper
chair started above the road, a hundred yards and a good climb up from the lodge. It was better to buy a ticket, ski
down the beginner slope, then ride up to the upper unload, near the upper chair base. The beginner slope and chair
base were wholly visible from the lodge; if the lift line at the bottom looked too long, we would pick up our gear and
hike to the upper lift. The distance was not absurd, just further than we'd typically choose to walk.
The upper chair served some interesting
natural terrain. There were more plateaus than typical, with steep pitches
stepping down to flats or climbs. It was a good area for working on speed, because it was necessary to get up out of
the valleys, while the valleys also gave confidence that speed could be brought into control. The steep pitches included
some rock faces, short chutes, and other features that were fun to explore, but all were on a miniature scale. I don't
know for sure, but I doubt that any steep pitch had much more than 200 feet of vertical. The flats or valleys below
each pitch were like a net below a trapeze; they made it easy to try things we wouldn't try otherwise. If we ever got in
trouble, we could just straighten out and aim downhill.
In short, Pilchuck was a lot like a miniature
Mt. Baker. It had less snow and less variety, while still having the oddball
character that put off the masses. Pilchuck had no good cruisers; it was low, with weather as iffy as Snoqualmie, but
the slopes were much less mainstream. The access road was bad, and long, and it took at least as long as Stevens, and
nearly as long as Crystal, from Seattle's Capitol Hill. We did most of our skiing at Hyak, then moved to Pilchuck, for
variety and a bit more interesting terrain, then Crystal, then out. Few others skied Pilchuck even as a stepping stone.
The lines were usually among the shortest, regardless of the low lift capacities. (The chairs, like all of the era, were
doubles). I never worried about it at the time, but I doubt the owners ever made any money.